Templecoombe Ltd understands that in addition to our customers relying on us to advise them regarding the environmental impacts of the finished products, we also have a responsibility to reduce and minimise the environmental impact of our own operations and crucially the operations, of the full supply chain from the raw materials to the manufacturing process and the distribution throughout.
As with the examination of the pros and cons of wind power vs solar vs nuclear energy where even governments find it difficult to clearly define best practice and policy, the simple bag, its raw material and the whole process of manufacture and supply, in terms of its environmental impact is complex when examined. We have found it extremely difficult to obtain objective academic Lifecycle Analysis and Energy Audits for the different materials, and we have yet to find a material that has a clear-cut case in preference to others on the joint grounds of CO2 emissions and biodiversity conservation.
Templecoombe Ltd believes strongly in offering transparency to its customers whilst doing what we can to constantly monitor and look for new ways to improve. Whatever type of bag is used, the key to reducing the impact is to reuse it as many times as possible either for shopping or as a bin liner. This is arguably the single most important message to give to our customers.
Historically there has undoubtedly been a problem with the excessive use of polythene bags (for example use of a polythene bag for only a newspaper or greetings card) and the disposal, or lack of responsible disposal causing unsightly litter and harm to wildlife. There are also limited facilities for recycling. However Templecoombe Ltd recognises that the polythene bag is practical (strong and waterproof), economic and actually has a low carbon footprint when you examine the full manufacture and distribution implications (see Manufacturing and Distribution). We promote thought in the nature and frequency of use from retailers and consumers, the re-use for shopping and bin liners and responsible disposal from end users. We are proud that we support UK manufacturers, with 95% of our polythene bags being manufactured in UK factories which means even less of a carbon footprint caused through importing and distribution.
Biodegradable vs Compost-able vs Recycled
There are a lot of options at present but unfortunately, as with most things, there is no clear cut ‘best’ environmental option.
Biodegradable: An additive is mixed in the extrusion of the film which makes the polythene degrade either through the influence of heat and light or through the bio organisms in the soil once the bag is in landfill. Usual time to degrade once in landfill is approximately eighteen months. The additive can affect the recycling process (due to the degradation) but at present most bags go to landfill so it is thought of as possibly the most desirable and practical option. Templecoombe Ltd predominantly uses ‘Biothene’, an additive which degrades polythene under the influence of light and heat. To find out more Click Here
Compost-able: According to the EN 13432 compost-able classification the material must break down within 3 months to be compost-able and have no polythene used in the process. These bags are most often made from cornstarch. This option is still in development. It is, at present, very costly and is designed to be a single use bag. Considering the rate it degrades it can be impractical, particularly for branded bags with the intention of reuse.
Recycled: We can offer recycled bags where the material is recycled within the UK factory but the majority tends to be used in the manufacture of bin liners and coloured, non branded film. There is a shortage of film to recycle at present due to the lack of infrastructure for organised nationwide collection.
Raw Materials and Finsihed Bag:
Paper has the advantage of being a naturally biodegradable and recyclable raw material. We only use factories using sustainable sources of paper and where possible use FSC certified paper. To achieve the most environmentally friendly paper bag you can use the following guide:
- Choose a standard size bag to reduce waste of material and resources.
- Use a natural brown kraft paper.
- Do not laminate the bag, this will make it non biodegradable.
- Use a handle made of paper (twist or tape) or cotton rope.
We frequently get asked about using recycled paper. On the whole it is in short supply and due to the fibres being much shorter than virgin paper, it can cause problems with the strength and durabilty. It has also been argued that the recycling process is more energy intensive and needs more additives than using virgin paper. Generally recycled paper is not used in bag production because of the vulnerable pressure point at the handle area and because bags are required to carry weight with no support. Due to the cost of recycled paper and production problems there are very high minimums required which is why you tend to only see the odd national and multinational chains using recycled paper on a bespoke printed bag.
Raw Materials and Finished Bag:
Bags for Life
Cotton is a natural fibre, it is durable and has the advantage that it will be reused. It is also biodegradable and compost-able. It can loose it’s shape and crease long term but is probably the easiest and most effective material to print on. The natural cotton is more environmentally friendly than the dyed coloured bags. A natural UK stocked bag with a front and reverse print will be a better environmental option than a bespoke size or print, imported individually.
Jute is an extremely strong, natural fibre. The jute is biodegradable but the plastic liner is not however it is felt that for the longevity and reuse of the bag, on balance this is sense. The lining means the bag keeps it shape indefinitely and is also water resistant. Jute is a coarse material so can cause problems with any fine, or very solid print and any tight registration. As with the cotton, a natural UK stocked bag with a front and reverse print will be a better environmental option than a bespoke size or printed coloured jute, imported individually.
Non Woven PP is a strong durable man made material, which is made from a by–product of plastic that is often otherwise not used or a recycled plastic. It holds its shape well, is water resistant, offers a huge colour range and is a fairly good material to print on. Stocks are held at the UK factories so again a standard size and colour with a personalised print will be a better option environmentally.
Woven PP is made from plastic. It is possibly the most durable long lasting bag of all and offers flexibility with print. It is argued however that it is not made from recycled material, it is difficult to recycle and is non biodegradable.
The manufacture and distribution of the various bags is complex but it is vitally important to examine the whole process and impact environmentally of producing each bag type.
As a generalisation the manufacture and distribution of polythene bags has one of the lowest carbon footprints of all. In a 2011 study by Britain’s Environmental Agency it found that on average the paper bag would need to be used around three times to be an environmentally better option and many of the bags for life around one hundred and thirty times. The majority of paper bags and bags for life use high energy in the growing of the raw material, the manufacturing process and are usually imported. Both are quite bulky so as well as travelling far further from source to end user they take up much more space and hence cause more of a carbon footprint in the distribution. As a generalisation on a medium size bag you would get around 20,000 polythene bags on a pallet, 5000 paper bags, 5000 cotton bags and 1,500 jute bags.
We recognise that although our operations have a relatively low impact environmentally we still have a responsibility to reduce the impact of our day to day activity and to help advise customers make the best possible decisions they can. In order to do this we:
- Train our sales staff to be as transparent as possible about the products and give as much information as they can when asked. We do not promote one ‘best’ option believing that this must be determined by the customer and their individual requirements and needs.
- Operate a diary system for each customer to remind them to keep an eye on their stock. This can reduce or negate any need for airfreight and allows us to use standard deliveries where orders are bulked together where possible.
- Use electronic communications where possible and are constantly looking to reduce our consumption of paper (see policies in progress)
- We recycle all our scrap paper and have reduced our consumption of ‘virgin’ paper in the last year by five packs per month.
- We recycle printer cartridges and old computer equipment where we can (see policies in progress)
- Strict ‘switch off’ policy. All our lights and computers are turned off by the last member of staff in the building at night.
- Communal kitchen and tea and coffee making facilities. The majority of staff bring in a packed lunch and use the facilities thus reducing any packaging from disposable cups and bought in sandwiches.
We are constantly looking to improve and reduce the environmental impact of our products and operations. Over the next year we are investigating and hoping to implement the following:
- Carbon Zero bags. We are presently looking into this scheme and it has been suggested we start with Jute where a full life cycle analysis has shown a carbon footprint of approximately 650 grammes of CO2. The organising company (we are looking at working with co2balance) puts a cost per bag of the carbon footprint which Tempelcoombe Ltd would pay on each bag sold. This money is then used to run projects in both Africa and Asia that offset the emissions of our operations.
- Supporting the NC TLC Trust. This is a local Northampton based charity that supports families with childhood cancers. They are organising collection bins for businesses for the recycling of ink cartridges, spectacles, stamps, foreign coins and mobile phones.
- We are looking to switch to using electronic communications in our accounts department. We are currently in the process of trialling sending statements via email as opposed to a hard copy and hope to extend this to emailing all our invoices.
Large Retailers with more than 250 staff in England such as Tesco, Sainsbury and other large multiples will soon be required to charge their customers at least 5p for their single use plastic carrier bags.
This charge was required from October 5th 2015 and if the retailers affected by this do not comply and charge at least 5p for their single use carrier bags they could face fines of up to £20’000.
This tax does not apply to promotional bags which are given away at events. It also does not apply to any paper bags.
For more information on the Carrier Bag Tax in England you can visit https://www.gov.uk/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities
From April 2013 in Northern Ireland all retailers regardless of size were required to charge their customers at least 5p for all single use and reusable carrier bags.
The carrier bag tax in Northern Ireland is constantly evolving and as of January 2015 the levy will apply to all new carrier bags with a retail price below 20p – regardless of whether they are single use or reusable and regardless of the material from which they are made.
For more information on the Carrier Bag Tax in Northern Ireland you can visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/baglevy
From October 2011 in Wales all retailers regardless of size were required to charge their customers a minimum of 5p for all single use carrier bags (including paper, those made from some plant based materials and plastic). Bags that are designed to be reusable i.e. Bags for life, are not subject to this tax.
For more information on the Carrier Bag Tax in Wales you can visit http://www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk/
From October 2014 all retailers in Scotland regardless of size were required to charge their customers a minimum of 5p for all single use carrier bags (including paper, those made from some plant based materials and plastic). Bags that are designed to be reusable i.e. Bags for life, are not subject to this tax.
For more information on the Carrier Bag Tax in Scotland you can visit http://carrierbagchargescotland.org.uk/