What we’ve learned about reducing single-use plastic

A year ago we told our printers that we no longer wanted plastic wrapping for our magazine mailout.  We asked whether they could use the new compostable wrapping.   The printers said they couldn’t.  So we swallowed the additional cost and had the Autumn 2018 mailing sent out to members in a recycled paper envelope.

At the beginning of this year the printers got in touch to say they could now offer us compostable wrappers.  Delighted, we jumped at the chance. So it was disconcerting this week to see the Spring magazine arrive in what looked suspiciously like a plastic wrapper.  On contacting the printers, we got this response:

‘ I have looked into it and sorry to say that the Compostable wrapping has not been used as you required and as stated on our job bag in numerous positions. As its a job they have done on numerous occasions in the past it’s obvious they did not pick up on the change of wrapping. I have created a customer complaint in our system where an investigation will take place to ascertain how it happened and put processes in to make sure it does not happen again.  Apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you.

We pass on that apology.  We are sorry it hasn’t worked this time, but we’re also confident that it should work out from now on.

So what lessons have we learned ?

If you don’t ask you don’t get.  I doubt the Snowdonia Society was the only customer to ask for compostable wrap, but it probably didn’t take many more to move the answer from ‘Not possible’ to ‘Yes, we can’.

Alternatives cost more at the start.  We decided to take the cost hit, but as alternatives become mainstream the cost difference should reduce.

The obstacle to change is sometimes simply force of habit. We can probably all think of examples from our own lives. Our printers are a professional bunch and it was probably just a momentary lapse, of being used to doing a job a certain way, that led to this slip up.

When change doesn’t happen, follow it up.  All the links in the supply chain are people.  We need to make sure that the message gets passed all the way along – that this matters, that we need to get it as right as possible.

We hope you join us in looking forward to wrapping up this small part of the plastics puzzle.  We’d also like to hear from you if you’ve got a local story about making a positive change on single-use plastics.  It could be a success story or an example where things haven’t gone to plan, as long as it sheds light on this big shared challenge.


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