Polybag Pilots are Piling Up

These industry initiatives are showing progress on reducing waste (and customer irritation) from single use plastic polybags.

As polybags, or single-use plastic bags used to protect products during shipping, begin filling our wastebins at home, pilots trying to solve the issue are similarly popping up all over the place. In Boulder Colorado, for example, the Retail Polybag Recycling Pilot Project has been busy quantifying, collecting and recycling polybags from local outdoor retailers and brand stores like Fjällräven, Helly Hansen, Norrøna, and Patagonia. Other brands, like Prana, have decided to ditch polybags altogether by sending its products either roll-packed and without a protective enclosure or using a paper-based glassine bag.

In 2018, the European Outdoor Group initiated the Single Use Plastics Project together with 30 outdoor brands. Following a pilot and feedback from various stakeholders, a report released early 2022 made the case that polybags are not a problem in and of themselves. It’s their end-of-life disposal. The proposed solution? Reduce where possible, use polybags made of recycled plastic, and recapture and recycle them before they enter waste streams.

During the pilot, polybags were removed at a UK distribution center and recycled. The product was then forwarded, without a polybag, to the customer.

The North Face was one of the participants in the EOG’s Single Use Plastics Project pilot:

“Following a survey, we found that not only were virtually all customers satisfied with their order, but that this change also had absolutely no impact on returns,” shares Julian Lings, Sustainability Manager at The North Face.

Being one of the first things an eCommerce customer encounters, the wastefulness of single-use polybags has been a reoccurring complaint for many brands and eCommerce retailers. That’s why for Julian Lings, this pilot shows the potential for a big win-win:

“The positive feedback we received from customers supporting this initiative confirms that recycling polybags is not just good for the environment, it’s good for our customers.”

Also check out Suston’s polybag tutorial.


Photo: Karin Alfredsson


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