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.
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 immediately 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.
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.
2020 UPDATE: Our mission to reduce single use plastic in our product packaging has remained at the forefront of our production process. Finding environmentally sound alternative materials and packaging solutions that provide the same level of product protection has presented lots of challenges. But all the testing, new designs and time have absolutely been worth it as the issue is becoming more critical than ever for the planet.
We’ve managed to completely eliminate all single use PET plastic packaging from our range other than a very small element of our tide clock packaging. This will also be gone by 2021. We’re stoked with this progress as we’ve moved from 3.5% of our products being in single use PET plastic down to 0.48%, soon to be zero! Our products that have lost the plastic and are now only packed in card include; our waterproof key cases, Slice fin boxes, Viper-X ski locks and Lockjaw long board locks. This equates to over 10,000+ pieces of PET packaging removed from the system every year.
As for our single use poly bags, we ensure that these are made of recycled and recyclable plastic. The next move is to find a biodegradable or alternative solution. Potentially plant based plastic alternatives (still not ideal) or a multiple use bag. So far this year we’ve removed plastic from our surfboard deck pad packs, Lockjaw board travel locks are now in net bags and the polystyrene packing in our mini-hula dolls has been replaced with shredded card (the full size hull dolls are to follow next). Also products like our roof bar pads and soft racks now all come in reusable net storage bags. This means that we’ve reduced single use plastic wrapping to zero! Plus, use of recycled poly bags is down to 15.5%.
So overall plastic use across our full range of product packaging was 30% in 2018 it’s now almost halved down to 15.98%. Of that single use PET and plastic wrap packaging will be zero by early 2021.
This year also saw the release of our Eco range – some of our most loved products made from 100% post-consumer PET plastic bottles. Included in the collection are our recycled roof bar pads, wide load roof bar pads and seat cover – which alone is made from over 30 recycled one litre bottles.
We’re proud of the progress we’ve made to date but there will always be more we can do. As a brand we view this as an ongoing journey. Reducing environmental impact is one of our core values and it’s an ever present task which will evolve as new technologies and solutions become available.
How we’ve reduced our plastic packaging so far : We have achieved the 14% overall reduction since our initiative began in a number of ways:
- Single use plastic blister packs have been eliminated.
- 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. Plastic shrink wrap has been removed from our deck pads
- Recyclable poly bags use has reduced 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.
- 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.
- 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-degradable 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’ve also moved 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.
- 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.