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Editorial blog

Groves aim to drastically reduce plastic waste

10 Oct 2019

Mark Hayhurst talks to Gareth Pope, Groves Sales Director, on their initiative to drastically reduce plastic waste.

Plastic pollution is big news and companies across the world are looking at how they can cut back on waste.

The impact of the BBC’s Blue Planet TV series, which highlighted the massive problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, and Sir David Attenborough’s call to arms to do something about it has resonated around the world.

Every year, about eight million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world, from busy tourist beaches to uninhabited, tropical islands and scientists have recently discovered microplastics embedded deep in the Arctic ice.

But what can companies do to cut down on the waste that they produce and do they actually want to?

Well that is an issue that is close to the heart of Groves, the UK’s leading supplier of sewing and needlecraft accessories, and they are taking steps that they hope others will follow.

Gareth Pope, Groves Sales Director, is at the forefront of the company’s initiative to cut back on their use of plastic packaging and waste in general. They are now looking across their ranges to see what measures they can take and have already taken the initiative with the plastic free packing branded range of products.

From their base in Thame, Oxfordshire, Groves are hoping that their move in the marketplace will be an example to others. Gareth said: “We want to be industry leading with our commitment to the reduction of plastic packaging. We have developed a logo which will start to appear on any packaging that does not have plastic. We have committed to look extensively at all products where this is feasible. If it is not feasible to disregard plastic on a particular product we will commit to actively move away from single use plastic. Every single thing we do is making a difference, that means if someone is doing something about just one product – that’s good. So that will build and we believe that no change is too small.”

But it’s not just packaging but product as well that Groves wants to see be involved in their attempts to reduce plastic waste.

Gareth added: “It’s very real, it’s not just a marketing thing. We’re not just jumping on the band wagon, tangible decisions have been made and we want to influence people, we want them to think ‘that’s good we need to do something’. It’s genuine for us, everyone here really believes in it. We have 60,000 products, we are contributing a lot of plastic – we believe ethically in this initiative.

“The first thing that really nails our flag to the post is where we have worked with Berisfords, which is a UK ribbon factory, to produce the Newlife range of ribbon. It involves taking plastic coming out of Europe and it being turned into the base fibre that makes satin ribbon.

“Our work with Berisfords also saw us say ‘that’s great but you put ribbons on to a plastic reel, get rid of the reel’. So they have moved to a recyclable cardboard reel and removed the plastic wrap and replaced it with a totally biodegradable wrap. That’s really ticked all the boxes and we’ve launched that on the market.”

But, with that in mind, Groves are not losing sight of the commercial aspects of their business. They are making changes but not at a cost to their customers. Gareth added: “We are, of course, having to make commercial decisions in order to keep the very lowest prices for our customers. We do not believe people should pay more just to care about our environment. Our aim is remove the plastic element from as many products as we can.

“Of course, plastic will always be a core component of many products and essential to some packaging. Our commitment is to ensure that all future plastic used in either product or packaging will always be recyclable and eradicate single use plastic as soon as we can.”

However, Groves do not want to be a voice crying out in the waste wilderness and they want to encourage others not only by their example but in the way they do business. Gareth said: “At the moment we are discussing with each of our major suppliers, literally product by product, to see if they can follow three rules. Firstly, find out if the plastic can be recycled. Secondly, if it can, great we then make sure we mark the packaging so the consumer knows it can be recycled. And finally, if either the product or packaging does use single use plastic, we are challenging our suppliers to buy recyclable base material.

“At the moment our frustrations are that main stream plastic suppliers are still charging more for the base product that can be recycled. We have been frustrated a number of times when trying to eradicate single use plastic but not put up prices to our customers. We are learning all the time and we know that if we stay committed, and our suppliers support us, we know we can make it work. So that’s core – it’s combining not putting up prices but making a difference. “

Battling waste

Trimits motifs – Previous motifs were sold in a plastic bag. We are moving all the range to a simple card only option with the motif stapled to the card. This removes all plastic from the product.

Hemline– We are working through the range in a methodical way to remove plastic where ever possible. Haberdashery is a complicated range which has many packaging challenges, products are small and need to be kept together, there are products made from fabric which can also get dirty. We are looking at many different ways to try and package differently without plastic. This will take time due to the complexity of the range but we are committed. Hemline scissors – currently working on a packaging concept to create a plastic free hang sell packaging option.

Milward knitting pins– We have recently launched a best-selling range of Milward Knitting Pins that has not just taken away plastic packaging but removed ALL packaging so there is no waste. By simply banding the pairs of Knitting pins together and providing a counter display stand, we have eradicated all packaging, this is a giant step forward and we really want people to embrace the idea of no packaging.

Case study

Groves/Berisfords Newlife ribbon

Introducing the new sustainable ribbon made from 100 per cent used plastic bottles. Berisfords have partnered with a leading European yarn supplier to develop Newlife Satin. This high-quality satin ribbon is woven with yarn made from 100 per cent recycled postconsumer PET or to put simply “used plastic bottles”.

Collected via recycling points within mainland Europe, the bottles are thoroughly cleaned then broken down into smaller plastic flakes before being converted back into filaments that are then combined together to create 100 per cent recycled yarn.

The yarns are then woven into beautiful doublesided satin ribbon at the Berisfords factory in the UK.

Newlife satin is supplied on recycled cardboard reels and is wrapped with a protective biodegradable film.

That is why newlife is certified with GRS, the Global Recycled Standard, and also Oeko Tex, which is the global industry standard for textiles.

A sustainable ribbon that does not cost the earth

• Newlife uses a mechanical process, not a chemical one, to transfer bottles into a polymer.

• The use of recycled polyester, which requires fewer processing stages, means less energy is utilised during the production process, resulting in a considerable reduction in carbon emissions.

• The Yarn production process is 100 per cent traceable and the finished ribbon is certified and fully compliant to the Newlife brand policy.

• Newlife yarn has the following certifications: Oeko Tex, Global Recycling Standard, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) by the Institute for Ethic and Environmental Certification (ICEA)

Newlife LCA

Recycled polyester, which requires fewer processing stages, consumes less energy during the production process, resulting in a considerable reduction in carbon emissions compared with virgin polyester.

Newlife uses a mechanical process to transform bottles into a polymer, without the use of chemicals which could be harmful to the environment.

According to a study carried out by the ICEA using the methodology of LCA, in compliance with ISO 14040, ISO 14044, producing 1kg of Newlife allows a saving in terms of consumption of energy resources and CO2 emissions which, compared to virgin polyester fibres production results in: Consumption of energy resources 60 per cent; Global warming potential 32 per cent; Water consumprion 94 per cent.

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