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The polybag: the heat-bag that no one talks about

It doesn't make the front page of fashion magazines, isn't on the cover of any bus shelter, no one highlights it on Instagram and yet it reigns over the textile industry: today, we're talking to you about the polybag!

We would dream that this evocative name was that of an it-bag/heat-bag Patina to wear day and night and in which we could store our life but not at all: the polybag is a plastic bag made from crude oil, into which almost every new garment produced on the planet is slipped after its manufacture to facilitate its transport and storage. That's 180 billion polybags each year for the fashion industry, an astronomical number that clutters the surface of the earth (and the sea). 22 polybags per human being on earth! Absurd, we agree, but difficult to do without it: if they are not protected, the clothes would strongly risk being damaged or stained because of the dust and other substances present in factories, warehouses and means of transport, or even damaged by numerous handling. They would therefore potentially be unsaleable and thrown away…one problem would be replaced by another.

Ok so what do we do about these mountains of plastic? Is there a way to make these polybags more conscious? We share our questions and our progress with you:

#1 Do you also Patine use plastic polybags?

It's difficult to do without polybags because you have to protect the clothes before they arrive at your home. For obvious reasons of consistency with our commitments, we sought an alternative to single-use plastic and implemented responsible sourcing for all of our production. Thanks to the choice of a very committed logistics partner, we also manage the end of life of our polybags. Our approach is that of RRR: recycled, recyclable, recycled :)

  • Our polybags are sourced in Europe
  • We purchase them and supply them to all our manufacturing partners
  • They are based on 100% recycled polyurethane
  • They are recyclable
  • and truly recycled since we take care of this by not sending any polybags to your home.

So for our clothes, no virgin material is used or thrown away, and we explain how in more detail below.

We also stopped using plastic bottles, we preferred poke bottles Gwyneth

#2 How to recycle polybags?

By taking care of this step rather than leaving you in charge of the problem! Because if one thing is certain about recycling, it’s that it’s never done “simply”. Like us, you sort your trash and that's great. However, on a national scale, only 28%* of plastic packaging is truly recycled after having been sorted and collected, then only 6%** of this recycled plastic is reintroduced into the production cycle: rates which therefore remain very (too ) weak. And statistics which call into question the campaigns of brands which absolve themselves of their responsibilities by encouraging their customers on their (over)packaging to recycle their waste rather than supporting investment in infrastructure allowing efficient recycling!

To avoid this :

  • We send our e-commerce polybags for recycling
  • The single-material composition of our polybags facilitates their recycling into new plastic.

We are therefore proud to have real traceability of the recycling of our polybags (hence the term “truly recycled” in question #1).

Here's how it happens:

  • Before shipping a garment, it is removed from the polybag.
  • Then they are entrusted to a specialized ESAT**** located a few kilometers from our warehouse. The ESAT ( Work Aid Establishment and Service in France) takes care of packaging the batches of polybags into plastic bales then sending them for recycling (always nearby) to be transformed into new recycled plastic.

This transparent and local circuit allows us to ensure that our polybags are truly recycled.

#2 bis Problem solved!

Not 100% (sadly). Our solution currently seems to us to be the least bad solution currently, but certainly not perfect:: even recycled, a polybag is a plastic based on components derived from petroleum and plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely, it degrades over time. as recycling cycles progress.

We have measured the impact of polybags in all of our carbon emissions: it is very low (0.01%). Despite everything, we know that this solution is not perfect and we are exploring several avenues to do better.

  • we evaluate the number of polybags used (one per garment produced) then we apply an emissions factor which corresponds to the production of the polybag and the end of life (here we have chosen the recycling sector)

#3 And if not why not make biodegradable polybags?

More and more articles are appearing about biodegradable alternatives, and you've all seen nice promises of “compostable” plant-based plastic packaging. We did our own research and here's what we found:

First of all, we must differentiate between biosourced materials and so-called biodegradable plastics:

Biosourced materials are produced from starch (often corn), also called PLA. These polymers are often obtained from crop residues and that's good because they help reduce food waste!

However, when we talk about PLA composting, we are often talking about industrial composting and not domestic composting. In addition, even industrial composting of PLA is not currently guaranteed. PLA bags are often sorted before entering composting plants to return to the classic landfill or waste incineration circuit, thus completely negating the benefit of this material...

It turns out that the manufacture of PLA polybags is often more impactful for the environment than the traditional sector, unless it is actually composted.

The problem is that currently compostable plastic packaging is thrown away and not composted. They end up buried or incinerated, and emit CO2 and toxic waste. Without large-scale solutions for composing PL, the PLA polybag does not seem to us to be a suitable solution. However, we absolutely must support innovation and one day be able to get rid of plastic. We are closely following the advancements and developments of this promising material. We also hope that 2 differentiated labels will soon become widespread to distinguish industrially and domestically compostable products and thus help brands and consumers make the right choices.

So-called biodegradable (or oxo-degradable) plastics are obtained from petrochemicals like conventional plastics. Additives are then added to allow the degradation of the plastic. In addition to their unresponsible composition, the degradation of these plastics is not complete and leaves significant pieces of plastic which continue to pollute the soil and oceans.

The term “biodegradable” is (too) often used in the industry to do greenwashing: in fact, all materials are “biodegradable”, meaning that they will one day degrade in nature. However, this degradation can take hundreds/thousands of years and release toxic components... Unlike a compostable product which degrades only into water, oxygen and carbon dioxide in a short time. The problem with these oxo-degradable plastics is that they are not an environmentally friendly solution either.

#3 Other avenues you could explore?

Yes ! Our research is currently focused on sourcing 100% recyclable and compostable FSC* certified paper raw materials.Several advantages of manufacturing in 100% paper:

  • A single-material composition that facilitates recycling after use
  • The paper recycling sector is more advanced and widespread in France than that of plastic, which allows us to remain in an ever more local circuit.
  • If the packaging is not recycled, it can be composted and decomposes without releasing toxic products

Another option would be reusable packaging, in the spirit of reusable parcel packaging which would travel in a closed circuit from our logistics center to our manufacturing partners. We are not aware of any solutions of this type nor of any calculation evaluating the return on impact which would create additional transport.

We are also considering the total elimination of the polybag for certain parts. Impossible for our white t-shirt which must arrive at your home white and well folded, but other products would allow it.

Finally, always, and obviously: continuing our efforts upstream to only manufacture clothing that is truly recycled limits the consumption of polybags. Our production model for pre-orders or small stocks, our wardrobe of essentials excluding micro-trends, our vision of reasoned growth contribute more generally to avoiding waste.

#4 Can we help you do better?

Absolutely, If you would like to share your comments, questions, ideas or suggestions with us, write to us at hello@patine.fr ! We are also looking for a solution for collecting polybags at points of sale for sending for recycling for our Parisian Studio. If you know of an initiative in place in Paris or are also looking for it, let us know.

*source: Citeo 2020 report
**source: Report on waste recycling sectors in mainland France 2020
*** our logistics partner is located near Angers: it is in its warehouse that packages from our manufacturing plants are received and then shipped to you. It employs people in reintegration.*
**** An Establishment and Service for Assistance through Work has been in France, since 2005, a medico-social establishment for protected work, reserved for people with disabilities and aimed at their social and professional integration or reintegration. (source Wikipedia)*