Is going plastic free really achievable?

As surfers we’ve known for years that ocean plastic is reaching critical levels. But now thankfully this potential eco time bomb has been brought into much broader view. With the likes of David Attenborough and the BBC’s Blue Planet spelling out the crisis to a global audience. Single use plastic has rightly become a hot topic and here at Northcore we recognise the immediate need to become part of the wider efforts to reverse their use.

Plastic pollution washed up on the beach on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands – Image Tim Nunn

Northcore’s environmental approach has always been one of being aware and making a difference where possible. We’ve been recycling and carbon offsetting since our inception. However the issue of plastics choking our oceans has prompted us to look much deeper at all of our operations. So we’ve assessed where we can make improvements and set ourselves goals for rapid plastic reduction.

Here’s where we’re at right now and where we want to be by the end of 2018/early 2019:

  • Product packaging: This is our number one priority. Currently 3.5% of all of our products are packaged in single use PET plastic, 5% have single use plastic wrapping and 21% have recyclable poly bag packaging. Since late 2017 all new and existing production orders have removed or replaced poly bags wherever possible. This policy has been communicated to all of our manufacturers and will be followed up with quality control checking throughout the supply chain. By the end of 2018/early 2019 we want reduce our use of plastic poly bags to 9.2%, 1.2% for single use plastic packaging and 1% for single use PET plastic (blister packs). Where it’s not immediatley possible to remove plastic we will use containers which can be re-purposed and have a longevity beyond merely containing a product and actively source alternatives for items like poly bags. Our goal for 2018/19 is to be 90% plastic packaging free.


  • 2019 UPDATE: Since we first published this post just over a year ago the Northcore team have been committed to reducing plastic use in our packaging and we’re pleased to say we’ve made some real progress towards meeting our targets. In 2018 3.5% of all of our products were packaged in single use PET plastic this has been reduced down to 2.5%, single use plastic wrapping was at 5%, this is now down to 1.2% and 21% had recyclable poly bag packaging, this has now dropped to 16%. So overall plastic use across our full range of product packaging was 30% in 2018 it’s now down to 19.7%. There’s more work to do and our plastic packaging reduction plans continue this year and beyond – our ultimate goal is to eliminate it completely.

Goodbye to plastic blister packs and welcome to card packaging.

How we’ve reduced our plastic packaging so far : We have acheived the 10.3% year on year reduction in a number of ways –

  1. Single use plastic blister packs were eliminated from our Keypod packaging and replaced with cardboard. We discontinued sale of our Gumball ding repair completely as we were unable to find a suitable alternative.
  2. Single use non-recyclable plastic – where possible this was simply removed,  so surf wax combs are now loose, plastic bags inside products which already have an outer re-useable bag like our hammocks was removed.
  3. Recyclable poly bags use has reduced by 5% by creating re-useable packaging like the drawstring net bags in our changing mats, Powerstroke cords and soft racks. Where poly bags are used we source plastic that has already been recycled and is recyclable again along the chain.

Desktop bamboo tide clock

  • Our products: Our default option when introducting any new product which is made of or contains plastic is to use, wherever possible, recycled and recyclable material (our wetsuit Slidehanger and plastic wax combs are perfect examples). Also over the past few years we have introduced a range of products made from sustainable materials and sources like bamboo. Ultimately though product longevity is the key. We want our products to be used and not consumed. The goal being the creation of premium goods which last for years, generations or even life times. The single use, throwaway culture needs to end.

In it’s natural habitat

  • Our warehouse:  There are a whole range of improvements which we’ve been able to make operationally. These were either in place or have been implemented since the beginning of the year and include; phasing out plastic packing tape and using paper tape, using bio-degradeable bubble wrap, not purchasing any new card boxes (we’ve never done this). We re-use all existing boxes and packaging which passes through our warehouse. So cardboard, foam packing peanuts, scraps of bubble wrap etc all get used to ship product out to our B2B and B2C customers. Where we can we’re also going to move to using recycled paper parcel bags instead of plastic bags. In Q1 2018 we introduced paperless invoicing for all of our B2B customers which cuts out a great deal of paper, envelopes and associated environmental costs. We’re also excited about being a member of the Surfers Against Sewage 250 business club and being able to organise the first of what we hope will become an annual Northcore/SAS local beach clean as part of their amazing Spring beach clean programme.

Paper packing tape

  • In our offices: Everyone in our team was offered a water bottle as we introduced a shared use drinking water dispenser in 2017. Single use plastic drinks bottles are now pretty much banned here! All paper and card is recycled and when one of our offices is left empty at any time we turn off the lights – no use wasting power unnecessarily.

These changes are standard practice for our brand, now and into the future. We’ll constantly assess where we can improve and minimise our environmental impact and feel proud of the products we create.

For more on the Northcore brand click here to visit our website. 

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