More and more we’re seeing the dreadful impact of plastics on our environment.  We only have to look at the recent David Attenborough Blue Planet series which highlighted the dreadful consequences of disposing on non-disposable waste and specifically single use plastic.

2015 plastic carrier bag charge

From October 2015, our Government stipulated that large retail businesses must charge 5p for each single carrier bag being used, and more recently we’re seeing an implementation of a 10p charge for re-usable bags.  The initiative was championed by Surfers Against Sewage who’s campaign ‘Break the Bag Habit’ contributed to the implementation of this levy.

The results of this initiative are pretty staggering.  According to Gov stats  (Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)  “in 2014 over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England. That’s something like 140 bags per person, the equivalent of about 61,000 tonnes in total…”

However since the scheme was introduced “the number of bags used has gone down by more than 80 percent in England.”  Furthermore it is reported that a total £66m was donated to good causes in the year 2016-17 with 50% of this going to ‘local causes’.

This continues to be a hot topic and every little bit we can do to help individually will make a collective difference.

Certainly in the promotional merchandise industry, I can’t remember the last time I was asked for plastic carrier bags which is hugely re-assuring.

Businesses are quite rightly favouring the re-usable cotton tote bags.  It’s a really useful low cost promotional give away with good brand visibility and an eco-message which I think is a winning combination.

Single use take-away cups

A more recent initiative which is being reflected also in my industry is the encouraging uplift of re-usable take-away cups. The levy which has been applied to some coffee shops of around 25p if using a single use cup, together with a discount when you bring your own cup to fill and take away is making a visible difference.

From British made plastic re-usable take-away cups (reducing further our carbon footprint which is an added benefit), take-away cups made from bamboo fibre, to collapsible silicon take away cups making the item even more portable, the choices are vast.  Similar to the cotton tote, the take away cup continues to be a popular choice for many businesses with it’s combined practicality and brand exposure. A personal favourite of mine is the collapsible cup.  Mine travels with me everywhere!

Interested in this subject, I’ve recently joined a local community group with the focus of making our town single-use plastic free.  The initiative was founded by the charity Surfers Against Sewage who were aiming to enlist 125 volunteer community leaders to promote and lead the way. Initially focusing on coastal regions, the initiative has become more widespread and is very much targeting our more urban areas; interestingly the current count of volunteer leads is the 374. You can see their campaign at

It’s really encouraging to see that the message is starting to get out but we still have a long way to go.

If you’re interested to learn more about eco-friendly merchandise, or you have some great ideas, we’d love to hear from you.