Plastic is a valuable resource. It’s still the most effective and lightest packaging solution for us to store and transport our high-value products, from factory through to customer. It protects garments from being damaged by moisture, dust and dirt.
However, if not dealt with properly at its endpoint, that plastic can cause issues. It can be sent to landfill losing it as a resource, incinerated instead of being recycled, or end up in our waterways by mistake. Plastic use is not the problem. Plastic waste is.
In late-2019, our Customer Experience team wanted to make a change. We were receiving overwhelming feedback about unnecessary single-use plastic. So, an idea was born: to start removing avoidable polybags from our supply chain.
"Love the packaging and environmental responsibility Rab is undertaking."
Rob, Rab® customer
“We’re always nervous when making a change to the way our customers receive their products, so much can go wrong. So, the idea of removing the polybags, and trusting paper and delivery services was unthinkable a few years ago”
Matt Clarke, Head of Customer Experience
From SS21 onwards, we're saving up to 70% reduction (by volume) of our polybags through rolling and folding
"Love the packaging and environmental repsonsibility RAB is undertaking."
Rob, Rab® customer
A few concerns were raised, but the biggest hurdle was, ‘How do we protect our technical and high-value apparel, like down products or waterproof shells, and ensure they don’t get damaged in transit?’
After linking up the key stakeholders and brainstorming some answers, a solution emerged; remove any unnecessary polybags from orders which were being shipped directly to consumers from our UK distribution centre. And for exceptionally high value or delicate items, the bag is left in place to do its job. Afterall, damaging a technical garment like a down jacket to a point where it is no longer serviceable is more harmful to the environmental than the polybag.
"Delighted to see a company making a genuine effort to reduce unnecessary packaging and use of plastics."
Sally, Rab® customer
We've swapped to biodegradable gum tape for all downstream shipping
We have expanded the trial to other countries including the USA. In the UK, it’s no longer a trial – we don’t see the need to ship the majority of our products in polybags. We believe it’s our responsibility to recycle them effectively, taking the pressure off the consumer, and preventing plastic simply becoming waste.
Where do our removed polybags end up?
Industry-wide problems demand an industry-sized response. For this reason, we have joined with the European Outdoor Group Single Use Plastic Project and over 30 other brands and retailers to take responsibility for reducing single use plastic packaging.
We've saved 300kg of polybags from going to landfill in the first 9 months since launch
We send consumers the product, we remove the poly bag and we make sure the plastic is recycled. We have joined up with specific recyclers who we can trust will keep these plastic bags far away from landfills or incinerators, and instead recycle to create a stream of clean, pre-sorted, homogenous plastics. These could be used for new products or new recycled plastic bags.
Words by | Greg Boswell
Images by| Greg Boswell
Lachlan Gardiner has quickly established himself as one of Australia's leading adventure photographers with an eye, not just for action, but the human relationships and divergent cultures that make climbing and mountaineering expeditions such unique, rewarding experiences.
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