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We have asked that by the end of Quarter 3 2023, all of our partners stop using vinyl tape, bubble wrap and polychips.

Today, packaging materials form the largest part of the global market for plastics, with 141 million tonnes of it being produced each year. The amount of this material that is thrown away annually is enough to circle the globe four times over. Furthermore, the production, use and disposal of plastic packaging results in 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions annually. The global mobility industry has relied heavily upon plastic packaging materials for decades. This reliance has had and continues to have a devastating environmental impact, and it is the responsibility of every single player within the industry to change their behaviour in order to protect our planet. For this reason, we have asked that by the end of Quarter 3 2023, all of our partners stop using vinyl tape, bubble wrap and polychips. We are encouraging them to replace all three products with the following green alternatives: 

  • Replace vinyl tape with paper tape.
  • Replace bubble wrap with paper bubble wrap, pleatwrap or paper blankets. 
  • Replace polychips with paper void fill, paper bubble wrap or reused and then shredded paper. 

Vinyl tape is a type of plastic adhesive tape. Though strong, it can be easily and quietly torn by hand, it maintains its adhesiveness, and it is able to withstand extreme temperatures. For these reasons, it tends to be the tape of choice for most global mobility providers. However, vinyl tape contains Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which when incorporated into vinyl tape, cannot be separated out and recycled. Consequently, used vinyl tape ends up in landfill, and though it does eventually biodegrade, it takes between 500 and 1,000 years to do so. 

Bubble wrap is made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), a durable yet highly malleable plastic. Unlike vinyl tape, bubble wrap is recyclable, but the recycling process is quite a tricky one. To create bubble wrap, tiny beads of resin are gradually heated until they combine into a thin, soft film. This film can clog the machinery that is typically used to recycle plastic waste, thus it can only be recycled using specialised machinery which breaks the LDPE down into small pieces and then turns them into pellets. These pellets can be used to create a range of new products including bin bags, bins, furniture, flooring and pipes. However, recycling bubble wrap isn’t the norm. In the US, for example, only 2% of the film and flexible packaging materials that are used annually are recycled. The remaining 98% ends up in landfill, where it can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose. 

Polychips are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is a type of plastic. Given that it is 98% air and only 2% plastic, EPS can be recycled, though as with bubble wrap, it must be sent to a specialist polystyrene recycling facility. Many people and businesses won’t make the effort to seek out a facility of this sort, thus across the globe, millions of tonnes of polystyrene still end up heading to landfill each year. Polystyrene can take up to 500 years to biodegrade, plus as it breaks down, the chemicals used in its production are released into the environment, often contaminating nearby water supplies. 

Setting our partners the challenge of going plastic-free is one of the many initiatives that sit within the Sustainability pillar of Kinetic, our five-year strategic business plan. The aim of this pillar is threefold: to reduce the negative environmental impact that K2 has on the environment, to drive systemic change within the industry, and to safeguard the future of our business by ensuring that we grow without compromise. Tackling the global plastics problem is a big step in the right direction, and some of our partners are already well ahead of the game. Mercury Mobility, for example, are now using paper tape to seal their boxes, and the boxes themselves are made from 100% recycled paper. Managing Director Nick Hurst comments that “We now only use plastic for mattresses and the protection of airvans. We intend to be using no plastics at all by the end of this year.” Having already seen so many of our partners commit to increasing the sustainability of their business by taking the EcoVadis assessment, we are confident that all of them will embrace the challenge that we have set them and join us in our mission to drive sustainable change within our industry.

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