The polythene sack challenge – is there a sustainable solution? We need your help!

Every business, and more so every charity, is concerned about single-use plastics and the impact on the environment. We at Acopia as a trusted supply partner to many charities, are well aware of these concerns, and indeed are taking firm action on our own use of non-sustainable packaging – watch this space! Many of our charity retail customers have spoken to us about their concerns over single-use polythene sacks for stock and rag transfer.

As responsible members of the CRA, Acopia – in conjunction with East London Textiles, and a small group of Charity Retailers – are taking a pro-active approach to this challenge, with a view to providing professional and trustworthy advice on what viable alternative options there may be, to replace single-use sacks.

Are polythene sacks all bad?

No, not all bad – in fact there are many benefits, including:

  • They are economical to buy, and take up little space to store (meaning prudent use of a charity’s resources)
  • Acopia’s sacks contain high proportions of recycled material (up to 100% depending on the colour)
  • There are some recycling options available, although there are challenges with the difficulty of separating degradable and non-degradable polythene because they cannot be recycled together.

Despite the best efforts of responsible users, polythene sacks are a highly visible source of pollution in the eyes of important (and increasingly aware) stakeholders such as consumers and donors and for that reason it is becoming more urgent to consider a more environmentally friendly option, to preserve your brand from damaging adverse publicity.

What alternatives are there?

We have looked at, and begun to evaluate several possible options, using our expertise & knowledge of the industry and our in-depth understanding of the Charity Retail sector’s specific requirements. Some alternatives under consideration are:

  • Crates rather than bags. Good from a re-usable view point, bad in terms of space, weight, and handling
  • Alternative materials (e.g. biodegradable). Whilst appearing more attractive from an environmental standpoint, it is debateable whether this perception is justified, as it potentially makes the consumer more complacent about sending to landfill, usually particles remain and potentially contaminate waterways etc, and they are rarely (if ever) recyclable.

Also there are compostable materials available, but these normally need industrial composting facilities for the grade & strength of material required for this application. They also have a limited shelf life.

  • More robust (multi-use sacks). A good option, but does need to be recyclable as they won’t last for ever. Cost is a consideration – will enough uses be achieved to make them cost neutral compared to the traditional polythene? Must also be of a material which will not damage fabrics.

What are Acopia doing, and how can you help?

As mentioned above, Acopia together with ELT have been working informally with a small group of charity retailers to propose and evaluate options, and eventually test possible new materials. This way we are looking to get the advantage of a multi-faceted approach, bringing together different stakeholders to get the benefit of a broad range of experience and priorities. We would love to get your feedback on this project, and to gain from your experience and knowledge, so as to ensure that any solution we are able to offer benefits as many partners as possible (and ultimately exerts a much greater leverage on meeting our collective environmental responsibility).

9 quick questions – less than 3 minutes of your time, please?

To play your part in helping to move closer to 100% sustainability, please clink the link below to complete a very brief survey telling us your views on this issue. This can be completely anonymous, but if you do leave your contact details we’ll be able to keep you updated with progress.

PLEASE NOTE – your answers will not be made public in any shape or form, unless as a completely anonymised survey result

Thank you for your help – together we’ll achieve sustainability quicker!