The challenge with single use plastic

At Pacsafe it’s our passion to travel, plan that next adventure, find that pristine beach in Indonesia, explore that remote island off the coast of India, hike the Inca trail, or dive the Great Barrier Reef. When I started to travel over 30 years ago, it was different, Magnus McGlashan, CEO of Pacsafe says, you could travel and never see any plastic in the wilderness, but things have changed. Wherever you go it appears as a sore eye. As a company we believe that travel is one of the most exciting things you can do as a human being, and it’s our obligation to do whatever we can to make the planet a beautiful place to travel for generations to come. Therefore, we have embarked on a different type of journey, to remove all virgin plastic from our supply chain by 2025.

What we've done so far

We are on a good path in our efforts to Reduce Ocean Plastic but have a long way to go. It may look as double standards to talk about making bags from recycled fabrics while still including other virgin plastic in our supply chain. But we believe in taking one step at the time and improve when technical solutions become available. Looking in the rear mirror we can proudly say that we still have accomplished things taking us towards our goal. 

Our next big challenge - Plastic polybags

The problem with polybags

Polybags are made from fossil fuels and often end up as waste in landfills and oceans. Birds and sea life often mistake plastic bags for food. For sea turtles it’s next to impossible to distinguish the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish. It’s estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. 

Why are plastic polybags used?

As a consumer it’s sometimes hard to grasp why everything has to come in plastic polybags and it’s often disappointing to see brands like Pacsafe to claim sustainable gains when the product still comes in a transparent plastic bag that immediately goes in the bin and creates a lot of excess waste. We know. We are therefore working hard to overcome the obstacles making these poly bags necessary and find a solution to this. We believe in making products that last longer is a sustainable way to avoid unnecessary production. In doing so it’s important to not ship products to retail and customers that has been damaged in transportation from the factory. Life of a product can be pretty harsh in humid shipping containers while on sea and in warehouses around the world, so even if skipping the poly bag altogether seems like a good solution, it’s not necessarily the best solution. 

What options are available?

Technical advancements are made constantly, and we keep a close look at what is becoming available in the market. Some of the options out there that we have been looking at are:

Paper

Though paper comes quickly to mind but holds its challenges. Its main flaw is that it doesn’t cope with humidity very well, and since it’s not as durable as plastic it easily gets damaged. 

Recyclable

Though poly bags are technically recyclable, at this point of time not many places offer consumers the possibility of recycling poly bags at recycling stations. More than 4.83 million tons of plastic film has been generated to date and only about 9.1% of that plastic is recycled. This makes it difficult but leaves the possibility of removing the products from poly bags at the warehouse before sending it to customers, leaving the responsibility to the brand to handle on a bigger scale. This is doable as long as the products are purchased from the brand itself. Unfortunately, many retailers refuse to take this responsibility and require products to reach them in a poly bag. 

Recycled

Recycled poly bags is probably the best option at hand. Leading poly bags have options like this at hand, but are struggling to meet quality difficulties making them 100% recycled. Many available options are therefore made with a portion of the plastic from recycled resources and the remaining part still being made from virgin plastic. As recycling of poly bags isn’t as common on a post-consumer level, the availability is scarce and therefore comparably expensive. 

Bioplastics

Bioplastics are made from natural resources such as sugar cane etc. which in itself may be better than crude oil, but once refined it’s still a type of plastic. A major challenge with sugar cane is the traceability of its source. A big producer of sugar cane is Brazil, which has grown in the past years as a way to overcome the dependance on crude oil. The growing agriculture has led to deforestation of rainforests. 

Biodegradable

Biodegradable plastic sounds pretty amazing. Throw it out, don’t worry, and eventually it goes back to mother earth. But is it that simple? Unfortunately, not all bioplastics compost easily and some even leave toxic residues or plastic fragments behind. Some will break down only at high temperatures in industrial-scale, municipal composters or digesters, or in biologically active landfills, but not in common home composts or in conventional landfills. It’s therefore difficult for consumers to know how to handle compostable plastic, and to not destroy a batch of recyclable plastic it’s therefore important that biodegradable plastic doesn’t get mixed up with recyclable plastic. 

What’s on our radar – #Invisiblebag

Though we are continuing to study the options above, and overcome some of its challenges, we are also exploring other solutions. Starting this month, we’ll be running a test on mailer bags. A mailer bag is the plastic bag the order gets packed in when shipping from the warehouse to the consumer when ordered from pacsafe.com. The goal is to introduce this type of bags as a substitute to the poly bags we use today. We are starting in a smaller scale on orders from our own website to evaluate the functionality and reception from our customers before hopefully rolling out this solution in a bigger scale in 2023.

#invisiblebag

#INVISIBLEBAG is water-soluble, compostable, biodegradable, proven to be non-toxic and leaves no harmful residue on earth. An alternative for manufacturers and brands to replace conventional plastic packaging. It is made of a water soluble and biodegradable combination of Polyvinyl Alcohol (known as PVA), starch, glycerin and water. One of the primary ingredients, Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), is a water-soluble and biodegradable synthetic polymer. It was invented in the 1920s by German Scientists, and has mostly been used in medical, embroidery, garment and personal applications since the 1960s, for products such as medicine capsules and laundry detergent pods. 

How it works

It is recommended to dissolve the #INVISIBLEBAG in 80℃ hot water or above at home. Simply put the bag in a container and pour boiling water on top, after a few minutes it will have dissolved. After the dissolution, you can pour the remaining liquid down the drain where it will be treated at a sewage plant. When the dissolved #INVISIBLEBAG arrives at the sewage treatment plant, it will be consumed by microorganisms and completely break down to only carbon dioxide and water, with absolutely no formation of microplastics. 

We need your help

Customers receiving their orders in Invisible Bag mailers will be offered to participate in a short survey to help us determine our net steps. As we are constantly looking for ways to improve our sustainability work, we would love to hear from you. Whether you’re a supplier or a consumer, your help means a lot to us. Please contact us at sustainable@pacsafe.com

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Recycled

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