08 Sep 2019

Glee is set to be transformed into an eco-hub of the future as suppliers showcase a new generation of planet-friendly products

Glee is set to be transformed into an eco-hub of the future as suppliers showcase a new generation of planet-friendly products

The environmental impact of single-use plastic is under the spotlight as the public backlash mounts against disposable products with the potential to pollute the world's oceans. In our second special report on the plastic debate, we look at how Glee exhibitors in the homeware, catering, gift, clothing and pet markets are reducing dependency on single-use plastic and switching to more sustainable, innovative alternatives.

As consumers turn their backs on single-use plastics, homeware exhibitors at Glee are channelling efforts into sustainable alternatives. Sapana Carpet Mats are made in India and imported to more than 25 countries, and are stocked at retail giants such as Ikea. Sapana Mats' Nishith Gupta said: “Until recently, most of our rugs were made using virgin polypropylene, which was recyclable but risked leaving a negative impact on the environment. The primary reason to use virgin polypropylene was to ensure that no harmful chemical residues were in the final product. We have now successfully developed a range of products which are made from safe recycled plastic. They have the same functional and visual attributes as products made from virgin polypropylene. This range will be available in IKEA stores in early 2020 and will gradually be rolled out to other customers.” 

British artisan design team Julie and Beth Dodsworth have created a plastic-free home fragrancing collection, to be launched at Glee, along with new plastic-free seed and growing pots. The mother and daughter team at Julie Dodsworth moved away from imports and will exhibit their UK-made products for the first time this autumn. Julie Dodsworth explained: “Our buyers are asking for plastic-free and we were anxious to deliver. The collections are also paraffin-free, vegan-friendly and palm oil-free. We love the garden centre trade and worked hard to bring in these important parameters, at a price buyers need for their clientele. Our new seed pots are ceramic, with a biodegradable bag holding the contents. We are anxious to tick every box!”

The need to cut down on single-use plastics is even impacting on products designed to make disposing of household waste easier. Wheelie Klips is a fledgling company in Northamptonshire that has developed its initial product range over the past two years. Its range of plastic clips have been designed to be used in conjunction with bin liners, helping to keep bins clean. Wheelie Klips' Mike Deacon says: “Our clip products are made from recyclable plastic; our spray bottle is made from recyclable plastic; our blister packaging is all recyclable and our bin liner products are made from recycled grade materials. Using our liners and throwing household rubbish directly into the wheelie bin, as opposed to using those from a kitchen environment such as under-sink rubbish bin liners, involves more than 52% less plastic going into landfill and keeps wheelie bins clean.”

Clothing and footwear are rapidly expanding garden centre categories, and manufacturers of garden boots are keen to shout about their green credentials. Amanda Wooldridge, of kids wellie brand Squelch Wellies, said: “Our welly boots arrive in a 100% cotton drawstring bag, replacing the wasteful shoebox. The tags on our socks are all made from recycled paper. Our colouring-in product comes in the small squelch bag. When a child grows out of their welly boot that's not the end of the boot's life. We encourage handing down, and our gender-neutral sole makes this even more possible.”

With the growing trend for alfresco living, the market for outdoor cleaning products is expanding. Block Blitz, an eco-friendly brand of paving cleaner, revealed the steps it is taking to cut down on plastic in product packaging. Managing director, Dave Moore, said: “We understand and support the need to reduce our plastic usage and have spent time sourcing and looking at alternatives. We're currently updating our packaging ready to launch at Glee, and are reducing the amount of plastic in our packaging by 30%. This will see our brand moving away from unrecyclable laminated plastic packaging to fully recyclable plastic and cardboard packaging for our range of products. Environmental concerns have always been paramount to our brand and at the forefront of our ethos. Our products contain no biocides, pesticides or petrochemical-derived ingredients and Block Blitz products aren't classed as toxic to the environment. All raw ingredients used are from sustainable plant sources and from abundant mineral resources.”

Even trollies that consumers push around garden centres are under scrutiny. Formbar claims to be the only UK distributor of Polycart lightweight plastic shopping trollies. It points out that plastic has a number of advantages over wire trollies – including a longer lifespan because they won't rust, unlike some wire trollies. Formbar's Hannah Lewis explained: “I am concerned that the backlash against plastic risks throwing the good away with the bad, which will regress product design and manufacture. Wire trolleys go through a 12-step finishing process where trolleys are dipped into a series of chemicals that plate the trolley with protective coatings. This has a big environmental impact but also means recycling the trolley at the end of its life is difficult because the different metals used in construction and plating have to be separated. Plastic trolleys potentially last longer than wire and are easily recyclable at the end of their life. They don't damage shop fittings because they bend and flex on impact.”

As single-use plastic bottles are increasingly frowned on, Glee exhibitors are embracing reusable or sustainable alternatives. At Valerie Graham, Managing Director Michael Stein is preparing to launch an autumn 2019 collection of re-useable water bottles, coffee mugs, tumblers and stemless wine cups. The company's Swig brand is getting ready for increased demand by adding new on-trend colours including crimson and green to its hydration range.

With disposable coffee cups also under scrutiny, Refreshment Systems' Head of Marketing, Katie Hall, points out that the company, which has been carbon-neutral for more than 10 years, supplies cups that are accredited by PEFC – the world's largest forest certification system. All of its cups can be collected by waste management companies and recycled, which is good news because the UK currently throws away 2.5billion disposable coffee cups every day!

Visit any garden centre and you're likely to see a growing range of pet care products and treats. With Pets at Glee showcasing more brands and products than ever before to cater for demand, manufacturers have been keen to emphasise how they're caring for the environment, too.

With over 30 years' experience in the pet care market, Butcher's has taken “crucial steps towards using more sustainable materials and helping their customers to recycle”. A Butcher's spokeswoman says: “Over the past year, we've removed plastic shrink-wrap packaging from our can multi-packs and replaced it with recyclable and biodegradable cardboard. New boxes are the first of their kind in the pet care market to be manufactured in the UK, and could save up to 92 tonnes of plastic wrap per year – that's equivalent to 4.2 million plastic bottles!

“Butcher's has taken the extra step to ensure that the cardboard it uses is sourced from managed, sustainable forests, where harvested trees are always replanted. All the steel cans and 150g trays in production are plastic-free and 100% recyclable, too. These metals can be easily and sustainably turned into new materials such as car parts, bicycles or even aeroplanes.”

Even pet bedding looks set to become greener. Danish Design is switching to “100% recycled PET bottle flake” to produce its pet bedding fibre fill from September. Danish Design's Director of Sales and Operations, Rob Newsome, said: “Billions of plastic bottles are thrown away every year, with only around 9% being recycled. It's predicted that, by mid-century, the oceans could contain more plastic waste than fish.” Rob adds: “By switching to PET-recycled fibre, we can ensure that around eight million plastic bottles a year are stopped from reaching landfill.”

Similarly, PetDreamHouse is manufacturing pet blankets that are made from RPET, polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. Each blanket will comprise around 24 recycled plastic bottles, with the company claiming that the manufacturing process cuts energy and CO2 emissions by 70%. PetDreamHouse director, Dr Wen Liu, said: “We believe this material will change the pet industry and our planet, and pets will love it!”

Speaking about the strides that exhibitors have taken to boost their green credentials, Glee Event Director, Matthew Mein, said: “The backlash against single-use plastics is resonating throughout every retail category represented at Glee, and manufacturers are constantly innovating to bring environmentally friendly alternatives into production. While probing the depth of change surrounding plastics, we have discovered genuinely innovative ways in which exhibitors are cutting down on waste throughout their operations. Glee will raise the bar when it comes to showcasing responsible manufacturing, and will provide the ultimate platform for exhibitors to drive home their green credentials to buyers who are seeking eco-friendly merchandise.”

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