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John Lewis replaces throwaway plastic gifts in Christmas crackers

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Plastic yo-yos, cookie cutters, magnifying glasses and fortune teller fish are to be stripped out of the nation’s Christmas crackers.

The move by John Lewis is part of a wider backlash against plastic waste and pollution that will change packaging around Christmas-themed merchandise and other products.

The throwaway plastic cracker gifts, which often end up in the bin alongside festive food leftovers and party hats, will be replaced with others made from metal, glass and paper, including key rings, bottle openers, games and handbag mirrors.

In a related development, Selfridges is to switch from plastic packaging to paper, cardboard and plant-based cellulose for festive food products, such as mince pies, cakes, Panettone and pralines.

Throwaway plastic cracker gifts, which often end up in the bin alongside festive food leftovers and party hats, will be replaced with others made from metal, glass and paper, including key rings, bottle openers, games and handbag mirrors (file image)

Throwaway plastic cracker gifts, which often end up in the bin alongside festive food leftovers and party hats, will be replaced with others made from metal, glass and paper, including key rings, bottle openers, games and handbag mirrors (file image)

And in a move that will remove far more virgin plastic than these initiatives, the makers of Dove are to move to plastic free packaging for its iconic soap bar and switch to 100 per cent recycled plastic in their bottles.

John Lewis said this year will be the last when they sell crackers with plastic toys inside as the company switches to alternatives made from recyclable materials such as metal and paper.

It will also decorate them with techniques such as embossing, rather than plastic glitter.

The move by John Lewis is part of a wider backlash against plastic waste and pollution that will change packaging around Christmas-themed merchandise and other products (file image)

The move by John Lewis is part of a wider backlash against plastic waste and pollution that will change packaging around Christmas-themed merchandise and other products (file image) 

For those who want to do away with plastic now, it is selling three designs of ‘fill your own’ crackers, which are proving to be the most popular on its shelves, accounting for one in every three boxes crackers sold.

In time for this Christmas, the department store has reduced the amount of plastic glitter on its own brand range of Christmas wrapping paper, gift bags and tags, advent calendars and crackers by two-thirds.

In addition, it has already removed the plastic wrapping from vast majority of the individual cards it sells and estimates that this alone will save eight tonnes of plastic each year.

Sister brand Waitrose has already confirmed that by Christmas 2020, its own label cards, wraps, crackers, tags, flowers and plants will either be glitter-free or use an environmentally friendly alternative.

Head Christmas buyer at John Lewis, Dan Cooper, said: ‘Reducing the amount of single use plastic in products and packaging is really important to us and our customers.

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‘One of the challenges I face as a buyer is that we plan 18 months ahead so it takes time for changes to become a reality. I’m always searching for new, more sustainable products which will make Christmas sparkle but won’t end up spoiling our environment.’

For the first time this year, the Selfridges Selection Christmas range, including mince pies and Christmas cake, are now 100 per cent plastic free.

The plastic used in the packaging of these products in previous years, for example in trays, windows and bags, has this year been replaced with either recyclable card or NatureFlex, which looks and feels like plastic but is actually made from wood pulp and will rot down with food waste.

Unilever, which makes Dove is today announcing a major shift away from plastic that will cut the use of virgin plastic by 20,500 tons a year, which is claimed to be enough to circle the earth 2.7 times.

The initiative means that from next year, single packs of Dove soap will have the plastic wrapper replaced with a what it says will be a zero plastic material. Other Dove products will move to 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles ‘where technically feasible’ from the end of this year.

The company is also looking at a move to refillable and reusable packaging as has already been seen with the launch of stainless steel deodorant sticks.

Chief Research & Development officer at Unilever, Richard Slater, said: ‘Today’s announcements are an important step in our work to transform how we produce, use and dispose of plastic packaging. 

‘By making this move, we aim to drive the global recycling industry to collect more waste plastic and make more recycled plastic available for use.’

Helen Bird, of the waste advisory group, WRAP, said: ‘Unilever continue to work at pace on their commitment to eliminate unnecessary plastic, make plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable and increase the use of recycled content, thereby reducing the need for new plastic production. 

‘Making these initiatives a success also rests with citizens; using refill and concentrate options and also recycling the packaging so that it can be re-manufactured. 

‘Our research shows that while we are well accustomed to recycling items from the kitchen, there is often valuable plastic packaging missed from the bathroom.’

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