Not all plastic is the same. Not all plastic ends up in the ocean hampering turtles in their search for food or in the stomachs of sea birds.
“It is a gross generalisation to label all plastics as wrong,” says James Buffoni, managing director of Ryedale, which is among the leading UK printers of horticultural labels and loyalty cards. On plastic, his comments can can be dismissed as ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he’ or ‘he knows whereof he speaks’. The latter is more accurate.
“We have been dealing with plastics for decades,” he says. “Not all plastic is the same.” In short plastic has its place, provided it can be reused or recycled at the end of life. Not all styles of plastic can be treated in this way, but some certainly can, converted into more bottles, into traffic cones or garden furniture. This is the kind of plastic that Ryedale wants to work with, where the material has attributes that are vital to the performance of the product it is printing.
A plant label, for example, Buffoni says, has multiple uses. It identifies the plant, carries information about its price, its care and continues to work in the nursery, in the garden centre and when the consumer plants it, in the garden at home. No paper fibre based product could offer this performance or life.
The company uses polypropylene material for this purpose, different combinations of polymer and minerals to provide the required hardness and whiteness for each application or client. “It’s about choosing the right material for the right job,” he says. “Plastics have been developed to have specific uses. But over the years people have become guilty of using plastics for applications they were not designed for.”
The pendulum is now swinging very much in the opposite direction. Plastic has become the bête noire of the country, with promises from on high to purge its use at all costs it seems. This is not the right approach for Buffoni. “The products we offer are polypropylene based,” he says. And polypropylene can be reused and recycled multiple times, unlike PVC plastics which can only be recycled with difficulty and there is limited capacity to do this.
PVC has been widely used because it is relatively easy to print on, is low cost and robust. However, PVC has a poor reputation thanks to the difficulty of recycling and as a consequence banner printing is rapidly moving away from PVC to polyester fabrics. The new material is also lighter, easier to handle and more versatile in being able to stretch over frames rather than be limited to pull up or ring tie banners.
Now Ryedale is hoping it can disrupt the plastic card market with a solid mono core polypropylene alternative to a laminated PVC card. Not all applications will be suited to the new material, but membership cards, promotional cards are eminently suitable for the mono core product.
Ryedale introduced the EcoCard product at the UK Gift, Card & Voucher Association conference in March. “It has been disruptive,” says Buffoni. “We presented it to brand and card operators, enjoyed 40-50 appointments and have been following up since. It’s a new product and not one that everybody else does. This is a more feasible and practical solution to the PVC issue than using non plastic materials.
“What we are looking to do is follow the rule of the UK Plastic Pact to reduce use across the board.”
The card was introduced at the UK Gift Card & Voucher Associations’s conference in March and has stimulated considerable interest “and we have made presentations to brands and card operators since” he says. “It’s a new product that not everyone else can offer.”
The journey is not stopping here. The company is looking at how easy it is to remove ink at the end of use and at how these plastics are handled to make sure that they end up being recycled rather than in landfill. All its own waste needless to say is recycled. “People have to be careful what they mean when they say recycled or reused. There is so much work going on, including even perolysis, the act of returning a plastic to its constituent parts,” Buffoni adds.
Next will be products that meet the needs of the garden centres for both longevity and end of use reuse. That will mean that Ryedale continues to work with plastics. Biodegradeable materials are not really suited to an extended outdoor life, half in the soil and half out. It’s about reducing unnecessary use rather than option of a fundamental hair shirt approach. We are watching the changes in legislation,” he adds.
By Gareth Ward
James Buffoni says Ryedale has developed a mono core plastic card using a recyclable material as a greener product than a laminated card using PVC. Plastic can be a more environmentally beneficial material than paper or board according to the application he says.