Think about your most recent shopping experiences; was there plastic involved? Chances are, if you went to the grocery store, you carried your items out in a plastic shopping bag. If you ordered online, you more than likely received your items in plastic packaging. Plastic is everywhere and is used for many different purposes. In some cases, plastic is absolutely necessary and can’t be substituted with other materials. But in many cases, plastic can be replaced with a more sustainable item.
According to the US environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. Can you imagine what that does to the wildlife in the ocean? More importantly, can you imagine the impact that has on our earth? If we don’t make a change, eventually, we will all be swimming in plastic, and there will be no ocean life.
A global study conducted by the World Economic Forum estimates that if things don’t change, the strong stream of plastic packaging waste will grow to two garbage trucks worth per minute within the next 10 years.
It’s not just the ocean that is being harmed; it's everywhere. If you drive through a large city, you will probably see plastic disposed on the sides of the street.
The bottom line? We are using too much plastic, and it is harming the world we live in. So, what could you do to make a change? As a retailer, you could do your part to reduce the amount of plastic you use. Here are some ways you can help the world to become more sustainable this year by removing plastic from products:
Search for Package Alternatives
Most businesses use plastic for shipping. They ship the items wrapped in plastic and then put it in a box. Consider shipping plastic free. Instead of plastic, use materials that are 100% recyclable and 100% compostable. Some brands, for example, are using recycled paper solutions. Consider using recycled boxes rather than plastic envelopes.
Offer Reusable Bags
Most grocery stores and large retailers have reusable bags for sale. It might seem like plastic shopping bags are harmless because they are so light and thin, but they actually have a much larger environmental footprint than you think. To create these plastic bags, twelve million barrels of oil are used. To put this into perspective, you can drive a car a mile for the same amount of gasoline needed to produce 14 plastic bags.
Additionally, of the 100 billion plastic shopping bags Americans use each year, only 1 percent of those bags are recycled. This means the majority of those bags end up contributing to pollution.
Many retailers, such as Lululemon and Free People, have ditched plastic bags and offer reusable shopping bags. If reusable bags are not in your budget, consider offering the reusable bags for purchase (They are usually sold for $1.) Offer your customers an incentive to use the reusable bag. For instance, every time they shop with the reusable bag, they receive a small discount for their next purchase. Not only does this bring back customers, but you’re doing your part to reduce plastic usage.
Ditch Plastic Items
In addition to shipping and packaging purposes, plastic is used for many other things. One of those purposes is to create certain products. Many bottles, for example, are made with plastic but could be created with glass or other recyclable items.
Starbucks is trying to reduce its environmental footprint by offering reusable mugs for $1, which can get you 10% off each purchase when you use the mug. Here are some other ways businesses have swapped plastic for other recyclable items:
· Metal or paper straws instead of plastic straws
· Cassava Ponchos instead of vinyl ponchos
· Silicone(reusable) Sandwich bags instead of plastic sandwich bags
· Water bottles made from plant-based materials that could be naturally degradable materials
· Edible cutlery (instead of plastic silverware)
· Bamboo toothbrushes
· Store bags made from starch
· Cotton produce bags
· Metal Hangers instead of plastic hangers
Companies are getting creative with plastic alternatives- and you could, too!
Get Rid of Plastic Labels
Another way retailers use plastic is with stickers and labels. Many retailers might not think this is leaving a large environmental footprint, but it is another way to do your part in reducing the amount of plastic your business uses. Before adding a label to a package, ask yourself if it can be recycled with all other paper. If not, you should consider using items that are recyclable. Some of the most popular substitutes for plastic labels include:
· Industrial Vinyl
· BOPP (biaxially-oriented polypropylene)
· Virgin paper
· Recycled paper
· Biostone (a tree-free, stone-based material)
Work with Sustainable Businesses
If you really want to make a change and reduce your environmental footprint, you must start thinking about the products you are selling. Think about where they come from, what they are made from and if the supplier believes in sustainability. Here are some things you could do to partner with sustainable businesses.
1.) Do your research. Many businesses that are eco-friendly will say so on their website.
2.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t ask, you will never know. You might be surprised to learn about your supplier’s sustainability strategy.
3.) Build relationships with suppliers. If you have a strong relationship with your buyer, they will know that you are looking for sustainable options. The next time they consider sustainability, they will keep you and other business partners in mind and might even make the change themselves!
Jordan Alliance Group: Helping Retailers Become More Sustainable
As a retailer, you’re more than just a business. You have the opportunity to make a change and help the world become more sustainable.
Not too sure where to start? Our team at the Jordan Alliance Group is here to help! We will help build a strategy so that you can remove plastic from your business. Together, we can find better alternatives.
Ready to make a change? Let’s talk!