As first adopters of the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme, Groupe Guillin does what’s good for the environment and for business.
Groupe Guillin are the leading European producers of thermoformed plastic packaging, and the first to adopt the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme.
We caught up with Andy Nudds-Hunter, UK Retail Director at Groupe Guillin, to tell us more about how the food packaging industry has changed since he started his career 35 years ago and how the company made the decision to start using Prevented Ocean Plastic.
Functional, sustainable packaging solutions from a responsible packaging manufacturer
“Sustainability has always been at the heart of what we do”, says Andy. Groupe Guillin has a long history of acting as a responsible manufacturer. Recycled content, weight reduction and the impact on their supply chain forms a large part of their design ethics.
“We strongly believe that with the correct communication, consumers can be educated and understand that If disposed of correctly through recycling systems, plastic can become its own resource and reduce the use of virgin plastics”.
Group Guillin’s packaging is designed with a circular economy in mind, rather than the “fire and forget” styles of design that were once commonplace. This means that plastic packaging should not only be recyclable, but more importantly, it should contain recycled plastic content.
Yet marrying commercial interests with functionality and sustainability is, and will always remain, a balancing act.
Historically there has been a preference for lightweight materials which keep your costs low, Andy recalls. Now, alongside functionality, recyclability is the key priority. Too flimsy and the packaging loses is functionality and can’t be recycled, too heavy and it’s no longer a cost-effective option.
With food safety, quality and sustainability at the top of the agenda, the decision to incorporate Prevented Ocean Plastic into their plastic packaging was a natural next step.
In 2019, Groupe Guillin became the first adopter of the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme and reaffirmed their partnership in 2020 and 2021.
The Blue Planet II effect
Most stories of change start with a key turning point. With plastic, Blue Planet II was that fateful moment for many, including Andy. The BBC series which illustrated how plastic was impacting our oceans captured the public’s imagination in ways like never before.
Andy recalls the “knee-jerk reaction” as consumers started avoiding plastic and how retailers re-examined their plastic packaging strategies. It was clear that the plastic Industry had a vital role to play, by taking positive actions to keep our oceans clean.
Yet moving towards more sustainable and conscientious design isn’t something that happens overnight.
The benefits of Prevented Ocean Plastic
Part of a wider portfolio of sustainability efforts, the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme was “a real game changer” according to Andy. He continues:
“The Prevented Ocean Plastic programme enabled us to make a positive action and promote the global recycling effort, support local community collection schemes, and help recover valuable raw materials and bring them back to our products.”
With plastic packaging under scrutiny, the programme also enabled them to stand out from the crowd with an innovative and positive offering in their portfolio.
“It enabled us to engage positively, have a clear point of difference and a fully traceable and certified environmental offer in a world of green washing.”
Although sustainability had always been part of the company ethos, what prompted them to take the next step? Andy believes that their business model encourages them to engage in longer term thinking.
“We are a family run business, which is what drives a lot of our legacy thinking. It’s a harder route to take, but it’s the best route to take.”
It also makes logical commercial sense, as good business practice and good environmental practice go hand in hand.
However, partnering with the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme wasn’t a leap of faith. The longstanding relationship with Bantam Materials, (supplier of Prevented Ocean Plastic) ensured the quality and safety of the material, two concerns which had been a focus for the retailers and brands.
Challenging misconceptions about recycled plastic
As the retailer’s engagement gathers pace, Andy is regularly faced with many misconceptions about non-EU recycled plastic. For example, concerns are raised about the cleanliness of plastic collected from the natural environment.
Good to know is that all plastic sold into Europe must undergo rigorous sanitisation processes, according to EU Safety standards. This means that recycled plastic coming from Southeast Asia or South America is just as clean as recycled plastic from Germany or the United Kingdom.
There have also been questions regarding carbon footprint of these recycled materials travelling from their points of origin to the UK and EU. However, when you realise that recycled plastic has a significantly lower carbon footprint versus virgin plastic, coupled with low emission sea transport, these questions are answered clearly by the data.
Educating the public and businesses about plastic and recycled plastic remains important. For those companies still questioning the adoption of ocean-bound plastics? Andy has this to say:
“I’ve never seen anything like this in plastic. The Prevented Ocean Plastic programme stands and falls by its openness for inspection. Keep scratching the surface and the evidence is there, this is not a skin-deep PR greenwashing exercise.”
As one of the first adopters of the Prevented Ocean Plastic programme, Groupe Guillin demonstrates that what’s good for business, is also good for the environment. With all of the great work that they do, it’s not much of a stretch for Groupe Guillin to add to their slogan: ‘We protect your food’ – and the ocean!
POP wants to hear from you!
Are you a business thinking about incorporating Prevented Ocean Plastic into your products and packaging? Contact us and we will get you on your way!