Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Why We Choose Environmentally Friendly Products
When curating our set of Eco-Friendly Gifts, being environmentally friendly is a key characteristic we look for in potential products.
Items that are alternatives to plastic in particular, are on our radar. In this blog, we're going to talk about why we choose to select sustainable products, rather than the standard high street brands that surround us every day.
Plastic Free Toiletries
Many of our gift sets are filled with independently produced, environmentally friendly alternatives to cosmetics such as shampoos, deodorants and moisturizers.
A key part of this is to use bars wrapped in plastic free packaging, as opposed to single use plastic bottles.
Single use plastic is having a devastating effect on the marine environment, with many aquatic ecosystems under strain as a result.
Over half of the 300 million tonnes of plastic being produced annually is single use. This includes the millions of shampoo bottles and conditioner bottles that are produced every year.
The main argument towards being able to use single use plastic bottles, is that they will be recycled.
It doesn't matter if they are single use, or that they are made from fossil based plastic, because they will be processed by the recycling industry.
From that processing, a magic new bottle will appear, ready to go through the same process.
Being actually recycled is unlikely.
Only 9% of all plastic ever created has been recycled, leaving the rest to go to landfill, incineration or our natural environment.
Many shampoo bottles are made from HDPE or PET, with the two plastics accounting for 97% of the US market for plastic bottles.
Both HDPE and PET are produced from fossil fuels, and do not have the ability to biodegrade.
They are both classed as conventional plastics because of those two characteristics. This is in comparison to bioplastics, which have the ability to biodegrade, are produced from biomass, or both.
PET, polyethylene terephthalate, is number one of the common plastics being produced today, out of seven.
Each plastic is assigned it's number due to the ease of which it is recycled, meaning PET is the easiest mass produced plastic to recycle.
With a recycling rate of 28.9% for PET bottles, over two thirds of PET bottles are not recycled. This isn't promising, as apparently PET is the easiest plastic to recycle.
HDPE, high density polyethylene, is number two on the list of seven, meaning it is the second easiest to recycle. This sits just in front of PVC in number three.
Recycling contamination is a problem that results in decreased recycling rates, and plastic being sent to landfill when it could have been recycled.
Recycling contamination is due to different types of plastics being incorrectly mixed together in the recycling process.
This renders the total product of the mixed plastics below the quality to needed to recycle them. Recycling contamination resulted in half a million tonnes of plastic being sent to landfill in the UK, in 2018.
Recycling contamination can occur at any stage of the recycling process, of which there are many. It starts at home, preparing recycling for the kerbside collection every week.
Specifically, PVC and PET, when mixed incorrectly together, can result in this contamination. PET needs high temperatures to break it down, so it can be remoulded for the recycling process.
At the temperatures needed to break PET down, PVC starts to form hydrochloric acid. When PET and PVC are mixed together therefore, the acid formed results in both plastics ending up below the required standards to recycle them.
By using plastic free wrapping such as tissue paper, and reusable tins, the risk of contamination is far less. Reusing and reducing should always come before recycling, as the recycling process is not at all efficient.
Plastic pollution is the build up of plastic waste in our natural environment. Both on land, and in our oceans, plastic waste is continuously entering the natural world at a concerning rate.
Plastic debris in our oceans is now well known for disrupting marine creature's lives, potentially in a lethal capacity. A less well known consequence of aquatic plastic pollution is the effect plastic has on coral reefs.
A study analysing the effects of plastic debris, on coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, found that reefs exposed to plastic have a far higher rate of disease than reefs that had not been exposed to plastic.
89% of coral reefs exposed to plastic were diseased, compared to just 4% for reefs not exposed to plastic.
The reason for this huge jump is due to coral abrasion.
Plastic debris is the perfect carrier for pathogens, which spread disease.
Persistent organic pollutants, such as PCB's and dioxins, are constantly present in the natural environment. These microbes bind to plastic debris.
Plastic debris has the ability to puncture the 'skin' of coral reefs, and with this action release the pathogens binded to it into the coral. The disease then spreads throughout the coral, slowly killing it.
Coral reefs are crucial for many reasons, the first of which being coastal protection.
The ridges in coral reefs help to massively decrease wave energy, meaning the coastal area by the reef is protected from natural disasters such as tsunamis.
Up to 95% of wave energy can be reduced by coral reefs.
Coral reefs have been used to develop many health treatments. Treatments for conditions including asthma, arthritis and heart disease have all been developed from coral reefs.
Economically, many people around the world rely on coral reefs to support them financially. Through the many different industries that rely on them, coral reefs are estimated to be responsible for $375 billion every year.
Plastic Made From Plants
We discussed briefly that fossil based plastics do have an alternative, which come in the form of bioplastics.
We choose to use these bioplastic alternatives in our compostable gifts, as well as in our compostable mailing bags and other packaging.
As a result of being produced from renewable resources, as opposed to fossil resources, bio based bioplastics have a lower carbon footprint.
Because biodegradable bioplastics have the ability to biodegrade, they can break down into harmless end products, and not into microplastics.
However, there are a few key things that must be addressed when talking about biodegradability. Just because a material is biodegradable, does not mean it will break down in a reasonable time frame in the natural environment.
It just means that the material has the capability to break down into biomass, CO2 and water.
There is no legal time frame for biodegradability, so if a biodegradable bottle took 1,000 years to biodegrade, it would still be legally classed as biodegradable.
This is why composting is so important, and we will discuss composting shortly.
There is also a misunderstanding that just because a material is made from plants, it can biodegrade. This is not true.
On the flip side, just because a material is made from fossil fuels, does not rule it out from being able to biodegrade.
Let's have a look at the chart below, to see the comparisons between conventional plastic, and bioplastic.
From the chart, we can see there are three variations of bioplastic: bio based non biodegradable, bio based biodegradable, and fossil based biodegradable.
The first group, bio based non biodegradable, is in the top left. Bio based PE and bio based PET are in this group of bioplastics, that prove plant based bioplastics don't always have the ability to biodegrade.
The group in the bottom right are bioplastics that are still produced from fossil fuels, but do have the ability to biodegrade.
The last group includes PLA, which is a bioplastic produced from cornstarch typically.
PLA is used to make our biodegradable and compostable items. They include compostable cutlery, cups, plates and ponchos.
They can be fully composted for free using LFHP Zero, which applies to our Eco-Friendly Picnic Set and a few other gifts.
LFHP Zero is our revolutionary scheme, designed to provide end of life disposal for our compostable gifts at no extra cost.
We guarantee that any compostable gifts returned to us using LFHP Zero will be fully composted, with zero waste going to landfill.
LFHP Zero is needed because there are two types of composting: home and industrial. Home composting is what you think of as the composting in your back garden.
To compost PLA within a reasonable timeframe, it needs to be industrially composted. This is due to the increased heat, and other conditions that are controlled in industrial compost settings.
LFHP Zero means we have partnered up with an industrial composting plant, so any compostable waste you send to us, will be industrially composted. This means everything will be fully composted in no longer than a year.
We have created the infographic below, to show the differences visually between home composting and industrial composting.
Developing Zero To Landfill Schemes
As well as choosing products that are more sustainable in their creation, end of life needs to be taken into account as well.
Disposal methods should be just as environmentally friendly as the products themselves. This is the reason why we have developed LFHP Zero, and why one of our main goals is to have 0% of our gifts and their packaging to end up in landfill.
There needs to be a big societal change in how we look at waste. Currently in the western world, we live in a throwaway culture. This is not necessarily down to the individual's fault, but we all still play a part in the world we live in.
Because our lives are so fast paced, and between sleeping and working we have very little time to prepare for anything, choosing to be sustainable is not an option everyone can afford.
This is not to say that people who are living a sustainable lifestyle are wrong to do so.
Everyone making decisions based on the environment on an equal level with their own quality of life is doing a fantastic thing. Eventually, we will all have to do so, as there won't be a choice. Laws will be brought in, or a lack of resources will force us to change the way we consume.
To this end, we recognise the landfill is not a sustainable option.
There is a finite amount of space on this planet, so logically, space is going to run out one day. The alternatives to dealing with plastic waste are currently landfill (not sustainable), incineration (produces airborne toxins) and recycling (inefficient).
There are a few other potential options for the future, if the situation does not improve. As we are writing this, scientists are researching microbes that have the ability to digest plastic waste.
Another sci-fi way of dealing with waste will be to shoot it into space. This would only (hopefully) happen if the world had quite literally run out of room.
Either way, we recognise that none of the mainstream options to deal with waste are remotely viable for any length of time. With LFHP Zero, we are providing waste disposal as part of our gifts, to ensure from cradle to grave, minimal impact is imposed on the environment.
Environmentally Friendly Products: In Conclusion
In this blog, we've discussed why we choose environmentally friendly products, and developed schemes that means zero waste goes to landfill.
The world we live in is changing fast, and dealing with plastic waste is a major obstacle we need to overcome to become a society that can coexist with other species on the planet.
About Our Gifts For Eco Warriors
We set out to create a range of gifts with a difference - designing our gifts around reducing waste sent to landfill.
Our collection of gifts for eco warriors do this in a few ways, and being completely free of single use plastic in product and packaging is one of them.
Whilst our gifts are designed by eco warriors, for eco warriors, it does not mean recipients who aren't interested in environmental topic won't enjoy them.
If you would like to read more about our eco-friendly gifts and the choices behind making them, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.