Do you ever feel guilty about the amount of plastic in your waste bin at the end of the week? Are you frustrated when you order a book on Amazon and it comes in a plastic-filled box big enough to fit a television? While many of us try our best to live sustainably, there is inevitably some waste created from our busy lives.
Unfortunately, most packaging is created for single-use and is typically thrown away rather than reused or recycled. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, packaging materials make up almost half of all garbage or 2.5 pounds per person per day.
The Challenge: Creating a Sustainable Alternative
When we set out to design sustainable packaging, these were our goals:
- Plastic-free & biodegradable
- Re-usable before disposable
- Always learning and improving
Image Credit: Zero Waste Alliance
In 2016, TAMGA’s garment bags were made with 'bio-plastic', sounds cool and sustainable, right? Bioplastics are made from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, sawdust, and recycled food waste. However, the problem with these plastics is that they only biodegrade under very specific conditions. If this material is littered or left in the wild, it can stick around for 80 years!
In 2017, we moved to garment bags made from Cassava Starch in Indonesia, a fully compostable material. Cassava is a staple food crop, relied upon as a main source of energy by nearly 10% of the global population. Cassava bags proved problematic both from a sustainability and a practicality standpoint. Firstly, the harsh Canadian winter caused the bags to crack. And far worse, yields of Cassava have been stagnant for decades, so the growing industry is taking away from feeding hungry people.
In typical 2020 fashion, we have decided to take our bags in a new direction. We’ve moved on from our Cassava bags and taking the next step towards our goal of re-usability with the launch of our Provence collection. Each order is shipped in a beautiful, reusable GOTS certified organic cotton bag. These can be used at the grocery store (also saves plastic!), as a purse or gym bag, or even to pack your shoes for your next post-pandemic vacation.
2. Recycled Tags & Thank You Cards
Our commitment to eco-packaging does not stop at garment bags. TAMGA’s tags and thank you cards go a step beyond recyclable, they actually promote women’s empowerment! Saraswati is an incredible social enterprise that employs local women to produce hand-made paper from 100% post-consumer paper collected from around Bali. Used paper is collected from hotels, schools and businesses on the island, it is then shredded and turned into paste, and lastly, pressed by hand and dried outdoor by Bali's sunshine. Saraswati makes the paper hang tags on every TAMGA garment.
The Next Chapter: Compostable Mailers
Currently, TAMGA sources our mailers from an New Zealand based eco-packaging company called Better Packaging Co. Their compostable mailers are made from a combination of corn starch, PLA (a bio-based, biodegradable material made from renewable plant materials), and PBAT. While PBAT is partially petroleum-based, it actually enables the rest of the (plant) materials to compost. Read more here.
These mailers are certified by the leading authorities worldwide, ensuring that the product breaks down within 90 days in commercial compost and 180 days in domestic compost conditions. After degradation, they leave no harmful residues behind.
Our next goal? Reusable mailers. Single-use mailers shouldn’t be necessary in a world where we’re getting visits from the post-person daily. If you're reading this and know of a company providing a reusable mailer service, please let us know!
The Next Chapter: The Future of TAMGA's Packaging
TAMGA’S ultimate goal is full re-usability. In 2021 we will be providing options for re-selling used TAMGA garments. We will be focusing on making our tape and labels more eco-friendly.
By 2025, we plan to reclaim and recycle garments into new fibres and other products when they’re finished their useful life. This goal has a longer timeline because the technology behind cellulosic fabric recycling is still being developed (with some very hopeful signs!)
While we’re proud of our journey towards eco-friendly packaging, our current solution is by no means perfect. We always have our ears to the ground for new innovations and technologies that could lead to less waste. There is no “one size fits all” solution for sustainable packaging, but with tools like the zero-waste hierarchy and constant innovation in the industry, we’re excited to see where we can take TAMGA in the future!