blog Image for End of Life Product Cycle: The Environmental Impact of Promotional Products

End of Life Product Cycle: The Environmental Impact of Promotional Products

Promotional products have long been a tried and tested marketing approach, making up a £17.7 billion market in the US and over £1 billion in the UK. However, as an industry with a large plastic consumption rate, there has been serious scrutiny over its environmental impact, particularly when many of the items are single use. Many products have a very limited lifespan, with the average writing instrument being kept for only 6 months before being thrown away (1).

Image result for number of months promotional items are kept

Here at Pen Warehouse, we’ve been doing some research on the end of life journey of promotional writing instruments, looking at plastic pens and how they compare with the eco alternatives on offer. 

Plastic Pens

Plastic pens make up a large bulk of promotional writing pens, likely due to the material being cheap, easy to print on and simple to produce in almost every requested colour imaginable.

The main material used is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) but can also be HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) or Polypropylene.  In some very expensive plastic pens, high quality acrylic is used. These materials make up the barrel and the main bulk of the pen. 

Refills are normally made from polyethylene, polypropylene or nylon tube.  The tips are normally made from brass. The balls are made from either stainless steel or tungsten carbide.  The inks inside the refill are made to a commercial formula but will comprise of solvent (to make it flow), resin (to make it stick) and pigment (to give it colour).

So what happens to all these materials? A recent study claims that of those asked in London, 15% admitted to throwing their pens straight into the rubbish (1). In reality, this is likely much higher. If we look in more detail, is this really the best way to dispose of them?

In fact, all parts of our plastic pens can be recycled! To make it even easier, there are schemes such as Terracycle ( who take whole pens and dissassemble them for you! 

But what about eco products?

Bamboo Pens

Many of the materials that make up a bamboo pen are recycled in the same way as a plastic pen. Bamboo pens still use traditional refills and, more often than not, still have plastic or metal clips and tips! The big difference is the barrel. At the pre-manufacturing stage, this makes a significant impact on the eco-friendly nature of a pen. While plastics use oil as a raw material, bamboo is a sustainable resource – but what about their end of life differences?

Composting Bamboo

Many bamboo products claim to be compostable because after all, it’s just wood, right? But how long does it actually take to break down?

Reuse – Creative Bamboo Ideas! 

If you fancy doing something different with your bamboo pen after it’s been used, there are of course other more creative options!

  1. Garden Markers (
  2. Bamboo Mirror (
  3. Bamboo Pen Holder (

Recycled Paper Pens

These pens have been around for decades, made from recycled paper with a plastic refill. Once again, the plastic refill can be recycled in the same way as a plastic pen refill. 

As for the barrel, simply put it into your normal paper recycling waste!


We all have a duty of care to our fellow humans, to future generations and indeed to the planet itself when it comes to sustainability.

That’s why we recommend giving serious consideration to the end of life impact of your products, examining what the main culprits are and how their overall impact can be lessened. Our advice to manufacturers is to take one of two approaches:

Either: Craft products with longevity in mind, using durable materials and high-quality production processes that allow your customers to use the product for years to come. Remember, it’s always better to reuse than recycle, so try to create products which facilitate this. 

Or: Where possible, create products which are easily biodegradable using sustainable materials such as bamboo, wood, glass and cork. Try to incorporate materials which are easily recycled into your products, like aluminium which is a closed-loop recycling process (no new materials are introduced during recycling). If the products you create cannot last forever, then look for ways to make them easily reabsorbed by the environment with as little impact as possible.   

As we are learning, designing products for eventual recycling is simply not enough in terms of commitment to sustainability and overall effectiveness. We need to work towards creating a circular economy (read more on this subject here) in order to truly eliminate waste, environmental impact and the depletion of our natural resources.  

This can be achieved through conscious design and manufacture, shifting our focus from the recycling of products to the production of well made, long lasting or easily biodegradable products right from inception. This, along with consistent assessments of the environmental risks and benefits of new product designs and identifying the best opportunities for product innovation and improvement, will help manufacturers to better understand the environmental impact of the products they are manufacturing.

To learn more about the environmental impact of end of life products and how to carry out your own product lifestyle assessment, visit these interesting websites: 

How to Undertake a Life Cycle Assessment of Your Products and Services

Product Life Cycle Assessment Shows True Environmental Impact

Finding A Greener ‘End Of Life’ For Wood

Environmental Impacts & Benefits of the End-of-Life of Building Materials



blog Image for Conscious Cleaning This Spring

Conscious Cleaning This Spring

We are IN! A new factory and a blank slate. As we put together policy and practice for our new HQ, it is now time for us to explore and adopt what we have learned so far in our sustainability journey – and this extends to our housekeeping. Some of these ideas we have adopted, some of them you can use at home and others we will aspire to use in the future. 

Before we impart our tips, research shows that cleaning can: 

  • Strengthen the immune system by reducing dust, mildew, mould and pet hair around the home   
  • Reduce stress and promote relaxation 
  • Increase productivity and help improve focus and mental clarity  
  • Encourage you to organise other aspects of your life and adopt good habits 

When adopted, a clean working environment will make for happier and more productive employees! 

Cleaning Products: Their Impact

Most commercial cleaning products are packed full of toxins like phosphorus and ammonia, which the Environmental Protection Agency deems as “volatile organic compounds.” These compounds often end up being washed down the drain or toilet and inevitably end up in our natural waterways, building up over time and having a detrimental effect on aquatic wildlife. Naturally, solvents are used during our production and cleaning process, and any waste or excess solvent is processed through our in-house distillation unit (see image below). This unit separates the solvents we use and other waste in a process similar to the one used to produce whiskey! This means we can re-use it again and again, reducing the impact of solvents on the environment through their production and transportation. We have scheduled a future EcoSense piece on this where we will show you the process in full.

Another drawback when it comes to the eco credentials of cleaning products is the cost (both financial and environmental) of transporting the products. Large-scale transportation methods like ships and trucks use vast amounts of fossil fuels, the combustion of which produces harmful gasses like nitrogen oxide which eventually leads to climate change.

And what about all that plastic packaging? Cleaning products are often sold in recyclable yet non-biodegradable packaging (read more about circular economy in our previous post here), which uses energy and creates harmful pollutants when recycled. When not recycled, the plastic simply builds up in landfills where it takes around 1,000 years to decompose – releasing toxic chemicals and affecting the environment all the while. We have written to all our suppliers requesting that packaging used can now be recycled, and this will be a requirement going forward for our supply chain.

So, what steps can you take to ensure conscious cleaning? 

Paper towels are a household staple, having been used in the kitchen since 1931 and in bathrooms since 1922, but the environmental impact of using them is huge! One study suggests that, to produce a tonne of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and ~91,000 litres of water are consumed (2). We suggest scrapping those disposable towels (which are often non-recyclable) and picking up some reusable cloths or, better still, make your own from old towels or clothes.

Next, why not try making your own cleaning products from natural or non-toxic substances? This blog post from Friends of the Earth shows you how to make cleaning products from things like vinegar, essential oils, baking soda and lemon juice for different purposes – meaning you don’t have to spend excessive amounts on store-bought cleaners and you know exactly what you’re putting back into the environment. You may also find that switching to natural cleaning products helps your own health, as traditional chemical-laden products are known to exacerbate allergies and cause irritation to the skin and eyes. In fact, a study by the Environmental Working Group revealed that more than 50% of the 2,000 cleaning products it studied contained ingredients that irritate the lungs (1). Check out #diycleaningproducts on Instagram for more inspiration and some before and after photos!

Making your own cleaners also reduces the need to transport products via large shipment methods, which in turn reduces the use of fossil fuels and dangerous gas emissions. You can also reuse the same containers over and over again  – effectively slashing your use of plastic and reducing the amount of plastic which requires recycling or ends up in landfill.

What Are We Doing To Ensure Sustainable Spring Cleaning?

We’ve made a number of changes to improve the sustainability of our housekeeping:

  • We are getting our employees involved! A sustainability committee has been formed and everyone has a say – from our practices to our products.  We will share our objectives for this year when finalised later this month;
  • All individual bins have been replaced with communal bins that are separated into paper, plastic and general waste ready for recycling;
  • Goods-in boxes either package outgoing products or are used to archive, cutting down on waste and reducing the need to use energy to recycle;
  • Employees either have two screens or larger screens, which has cut down on printing paper when proofing;
  • Paper towels have been replaced with dual airblade dryers throughout all washrooms;
  • Stock that does not meet our quality control standards either makes its way to local schools and charities or the stationery cupboard. This means less mess for us and a purpose for products which would otherwise be disposed of;
  • Cardboard that cannot be reused is shredded and used as padding;
  • Our next step will be to work with a local zero waste shop for products, for now we use the Method cleaning range.  You can reuse all their bottles and buy bulk replacements liquids. 

Because the EcoSense series is all about sharing best practice to promote sustainability in a practical way, we’d love to hear your suggestions on how we can keep a clean and tidy workspace using eco-conscious methods. Please feel free to email your tips to

In Summary 

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration for sustainable spring cleaning which doesn’t require unnecessary chemicals or excessive use of non-renewable materials. It’s little steps like this which, when taken by everyone, make a big difference to sustainability and the preservation of our planet. To read more on eco cleaning, browse the further reading and take on the new year with a clean (and conscious!) slate.

Further Reading 

Want to learn more about eco-friendly cleaning? Take a look at these great blogs for top tips on spotless sustainability! 

10 Eco Friendly Spring Cleaning Ideas

Tips & Tricks To Make Spring Cleaning More Eco Friendly

Clean Greener This Spring

Environmental Impacts: Non-Biodegradable & Toxic Chemicals

Eco Friendly Ideas For Spring Cleaning

Method Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products



blog Image for Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Policy Conference: Reducing Avoidable Plastic Waste Via Incentives, Targets & Policy Priorities

Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Policy Conference: Reducing Avoidable Plastic Waste Via Incentives, Targets & Policy Priorities

“We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We’re Drowning In It”, states the title of a recent article published by the National Geographic (1) – a sentiment being echoed across the globe. The point is, what can we do about it? Are alternatives to plastic the only way forward, or can we find a new way to deal with the billions of tonnes already on our planet?

Here at Pen Warehouse, we agree that sustainable products and green trends are a great way forward in reducing both the amount of plastic being used and our product’s end of life effect on the environment. But what do we do with what we already have?

Plastic is everywhere within the promotional products sector, in our products and our packaging. In fact, 40% of plastic produced worldwide is being used for packaging purposes (2) and over 350 million tonnes of it was produced in 2018 alone! (3) Our director, Helen Dyl, and our Head of R&D, Dr Rebecca Townsend, recently took part in a one-day conference, looking at precisely this problem; How to reduce plastic waste across the board without limiting our product quality.

Many of the speakers present at the conference stressed the same key topics, “Circular Economy”, “Product Impact Assessments” and most importantly, “Plastic is Not the Enemy.” So, we looked into these concepts in more depth and how we could apply them to our own business!

“Plastic is not the enemy!” was the opinion expressed in the first talk of the day, delivered by Professor Rosalind Malcolm (Director of Environmental Regulatory Research Group at the University of Surrey). A world without plastics is almost unimaginable – they’re found everywhere, from our mobile phones to space rockets and from food packaging to essential medical supplies. In fact, many people have tried to live without plastic, all you have to do is search YouTube for their accounts and it’s safe to say, it was a struggle! So how do we combat this? Do we really want to give up plastics entirely?

Our answer to this question is an emphatic no! Plastic is an important part of our lives and, more specifically, it plays a vital role in the promotions industry with its versatility, abundance and cost effectiveness. In fact, the plastics industry employs 1.6 million people in Europe alone (3). What we really need to do is change our behaviour. This point was made categorically by Dutch speaker Arnoud Passenier, (Senior Program Manager Circular Economy, Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management). We need to stop thinking of plastic as a single-use commodity, thrown into the rubbish as soon as we’re done with it. Plastic is recyclable, our pens are recyclable and even the insides are recyclable when separated. So, why aren’t we doing this?

The biggest buzzwords of the day was “Circular Economy”, so we looked into this in more detail and the effect it would have on our society and business.

Circular Economy

A circular economy is an alternative to our current model (make, use, dispose). Instead of disposing of products at the end of their life cycle, we keep products and resources for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value at all stages of the supply chain and then recovering and regenerating these materials at the end of each service life. This approach in particular is seen as the way forward by many of the experts on the panel, including Dr Marcus Gover (Chief Executive Officer at WRAP), and is gaining increasing popularity worldwide as a means of tackling our plastic pollution problem among others. Look out for our upcoming blog post where we’ll be delving into this topic in more detail!

To learn more about Circular Economy, check out this interesting video by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, or visit their official website for more information.

To make such a drastic change to our behaviour and how we treat our plastics, the change needs to be taken up by everyone from the supplier to the end user. At The Pen Warehouse, we’ve been putting this into action by working with our suppliers to make sure they use the most eco-friendly packaging and transport methods while reducing the amount of plastic packaging needed, among many more initiatives. Read more about our packaging changes here.

Out of a number of valuable suggestions we took from this conference,  an immediately implementable action is “product impact assessments”, which prompts us to examine our products, their impact on the environment and what we can do to reduce this impact. In fact, many of our products have minimal end of life environmental impact, such as our Mood® Collection reusable water bottles.

As for pens, how about opting for one of our sustainable fountain pens? Nicknamed the Pen for Life, this refillable fountain pen is the only truly environmentally-friendly pen. And what makes it the perfect environmentally-friendly pen? Well, apart from requiring the odd top up with fresh ink, nothing else is used or disposed of. This is because each refillable fountain pen comes with a device that enables the user to draw ink from an ink bottle with minimum mess and fuss. Watch this space for a future article on the Pen for Life.

Our sustainable Pen for Life Fountain Pen. Click here to view.

In Summary

We were incredibly inspired by the discussions at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum and we can’t wait to start putting all of the innovative ideas we learnt into practice. Attending forums such as this is a great way for businesses to see the long-term picture of sustainability and to learn effective methods of waste reduction that make a real difference.

Please see below for some upcoming events which we urge you and your colleagues to get involved with. Covering all aspects of sustainability, these forums provide a platform for education and discussion hosted by experts in the field of sustainability. Events such as these are guaranteed to get you thinking and motivate you to become part of the change, providing forward-thinking ideas which you can weave into your own business practices. 

Edie Sustainability Leaders Forum: 4&5/2/2020 – A multi-award-winning event uniting business leaders and sustainability decision-makers from the world’s most influential companies, along with climate experts, policymakers, NGOs and investors with a collective purpose: to transform business, for good.

Guildford Environmental Forum – Climate Emergency Talk: 15/1/2020 – A discussion on climate change emergency held by members of the GEF’s Climate Crises Group.

The Future of Waste Management and the Circular Economy Forum: 25/2/2020 – Practical guidance on how the local government and voluntary sector can work together in partnership to reduce the amount of waste and improve recycling across the UK.



To download this image displaying the process of Circular Economy Vs. Linear and Recycling Economy for use on your own social media channels, click here.

blog Image for The (Environmental) Cost of Christmas: Top Tips and Considerations for the Festive Season

The (Environmental) Cost of Christmas: Top Tips and Considerations for the Festive Season

Is there any better feeling than when it begins to look a lot like Christmas? The comforting sight of lights twinkling against the prickly pines of a fresh-cut tree. The smell of mince pies and mulled wine scenting the air with spice. The look on your loved one’s faces as they tear through sheets of wrapping paper while choruses of excited squeals ring out through the house.

It’s all part of the joy of Christmas. The giving, the togetherness and perhaps most importantly, the uninhibited indulgence we’re permitted (and even encouraged!) to enjoy over the festive season. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry and it’s so easy to become wrapped up in the excitement. 

This year, however, try to remember that it’s not just your bank balance that feels the impact of Christmas. The environmental cost of Christmas is one that is undeniable but often overlooked, so let’s consider the main aspects as we look for ways to reduce our impact without losing any of the cheer.


We’re all guilty of faking a polite smile after receiving a gift we’re not too excited about. But did you know that we generate around £700m of unwanted Christmas presents in the UK alone, each year? 

That’s why it’s better to do your research and make sure you shop responsibly to get your friends and family something they’ll really like. Natural, ethically sourced cosmetics, reusable food containers, drinks bottles, coffee cups and organic cotton clothing are great starting points for sustainable gift ideas which last a long time and can be safely recycled with minimal impact to the environment. 

Our Considerations

  • Avoid disposable, single-use products or last-minute panic buys which will likely end up in landfill, and instead opt for a gift which can be reused for a substantial amount of time.
  • If you’re really worried about getting someone the right gift, why not take the stress out completely with a thoughtful donation in their name? Events such as the National Trust’s tree planting initiatives benefit British forestry and provides a sustainable gift option for those who want to avoid creating unnecessary waste at Christmas.
  • Opt for no-waste products. We love the Zero Waste Nerd blog for tips on reducing plastic and general waste. Check out this post on zero waste gift ideas for some inspiration around the festive season.
  • Choose ethically sourced products and always looks for badges of authentication. We recommend shopping for Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Energy Star and Palm Oil Free products. 

Christmas Lights 

Christmas lights are a huge culprit in contributing to the environmental cost of Christmas. An article published to Global News stated that: “In London, for example — a city known for its Christmas decor — 750,000 light bulbs are used, and the lights go up months before Christmas.” As well as draining massive amounts of energy, the increased use of lights also contributes to light pollution and causes disruption to certain ecosystems and nocturnal wildlife.     

Our Considerations

  • Swap standard incandescent lights for LED (which use up to 80% less energy!). This could save more than £11m and 29,000 tonnes of CO₂ over the 12 days of Christmas.
  • Use solar powered outdoor lights which generate energy from the sun during the day.
  • Make your own handmade decorations instead of store-bought Christmas lights. Try using biodegradable or recyclable materials such as paper, twine, brass, glass, wood or even foraged natural materials from outdoors like berries or holly leaves. 

Wrapping Paper, Christmas Cards and Gift Tags 

Is it really Christmas morning unless you find yourself (or Mum) wading through a sea of discarded wrapping paper, gift tags and brightly coloured bows with a black bin bag in hand?

Although the glisten of glittering gifts under the tree is a quintessentially Christmassy sight, the waste generated from wrapping paper, Sellotape and tags is substantial. The Commercial Waste website states that here in the UK, we use an estimated 83 sq km of wrapping paper each Christmas – that’s a huge 3.2 sq m per household. Combine that with the 1 billion Christmas cards we send every year which uses 200,000 trees, and the impact to the environment becomes very apparent. 

Our Considerations

  • Remember that foil, glitter and plastic can’t be recycled, so use plain wrapping paper which can be placed straight in the recycling.  
  • Make your own handmade wrapping paper and gift tags. Use eco blogs for inspiration on designs and materials, such as this post on Stylist and this one on Little Green Space.
  • FatFace have some great ideas about reusing your old gift bags to make new wrapping. Learn more and get inspired here.
  • Make your own Christmas cards from recycled materials. Eco BnB have an amazing blog post on how to make beautiful homemade Christmas cards using felt, found objects, natural materials, herbs and spices!
Check out this great video from Goodful for ways to cut back on waste while creating beautiful eco-friendly festive packaging

Christmas Trees

We cut down roughly 8 million trees in the UK alone every Christmas. What’s more, most of these trees are disposed of in unsustainable ways which cause further damage to the environment. Throwing your old tree out with your rubbish will likely lead to the tree ending up in landfill, where it will produce the harmful greenhouse gas, methane.

Our Considerations

  • Plant a tree in your back garden which you can replant and reuse next year. It saves on trees being cut down and means you have a pretty pine or fir tree in your garden all year round!  
  • Recycle your real tree responsibly. We recommend using Recycle Now’s facility locator to find your nearest recycling plant for disposing of old Christmas trees.
  • Buy high-quality artificial tree that can be reused for years to come and, once it does reach the end of its life, make sure you recycle rather than throwing it away with your general waste.

These are just a few ideas on how we can cut back on waste without cutting back on cheer by working together to reduce our environmental impact over Christmas. 

We work with the Salvation Army and Trussell Trust to donate food supplies and gifts over the festive season. Opportunities like this are a great way for businesses to give back and make a real difference in their communities. Check out The Trussell Trust to find out how you can help, or visit The Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal to set up a donation box of food and gifts for people in need at Christmas. You can even donate money to provide companionship for elderly people, or an hour of one-to-one support for homeless people currently living in residential centres.

Staff Tips! 

Let’s finish by asking our very own Pen Warehouse team members for their crafty tips and festive tricks to a greener Christmas! 

“It’s only small, but I don’t use gift tags as lot of them have a shiny or plastic coating on them. I tend to use the actual paper I have used to wrap the gift and cut out tags.”

“Last year, instead of buying shiny ribbons and those bows that are everywhere at Christmas (which are all a bit 1970s anyway) for my family’s presents, I put pine cones and bits of pine tree on the presents as decorations once wrapped.” 

“I always reuse bags given to me and I unwrap presents like a ninja so I can reuse the paper for next year!”

“Keep all the little plastic toys from Christmas crackers and instead of them being thrown away and adding to the world’s plastic problems – use them to make your own crackers the next year! Websites like Etsy are great for inspiration and ideas:

“Buy a real Christmas tree as there’s far less environmental impact (even compared with reusable plastic) and most councils will recycle them. Just make sure you check ahead with your local recycling facility.” 

“When it comes to wrapping paper, remember this top tip! If it scrunches up, it can be recycled.”

“Buy solar powered Christmas lights which come with a timer and set them to turn off at a certain time rather than leaving them on all night.”  

“If you’re shopping Amazon, buy more than one gift at a time and request that they be packed together to avoid waste from excessive or unnecessary packaging.”

“Don’t just fill your recycle bin and send the overflowing waste to landfill.  Utilise local recycling centres too.”

Further Reading 

Have a look at these interesting links to learn more about the environmental cost of the festive season and how you can have a more conscious Christmas: 

Business Leader: The Dark Environmental Impacts Of Our Christmas Season

Burges Salmon: The Environmental Impact Of Christmas: Chemicals In Toys & Plastics In The Environment

UK Christmas World: How Much Do Christmas Lights Cost To Run?

Wired: From Tinsel To Turkey, Here’s The Truth About How You Can Have A More Climate-Friendly Christmas

Gov UK: Don’t Increase Your Christmas Waste-Line

Commercial Waste: The True Cost Of Christmas

blog Image for Sustainability – What Are Your Goals?

Sustainability – What Are Your Goals?

Sharing ideas and industry news is hugely important. We are all in this together, whether a distributor or a competitor, the more light that is shed on vital information relevant to what we do day-to-day, the better quality the message we deliver becomes. The sustainability narrative is no different, and that knowledge sharing does not stop within our industry. No matter your size, turning to global platforms to inspire as well as inform are important.  If you are beginning your sustainability journey or are interested in the bigger picture, a good starting point will be the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals. They make clear, at a global level, the work that needs to be done and the challenge that we all face.

So, What Are SDGs?

In 2015, the United Nations Member States collectively adopted a set of 17 guidelines intended to promote “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”  They were developed as a global collective strategy or action framework at a community to country level. You can find a short introduction here:

These guidelines form what is known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – essentially an urgent action plan to improve global standards of health, education and economy while reducing inequality and the damaging effects of climate change.

Let’s take a look at the SDGs more closely: 

Goal 1: End Poverty In All Its Forms Everywhere” 

What This Means: This goal seeks to end extreme global poverty (measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day) to less than 3% by 2030. 

Goal 2: “End Hunger, Achieve Food Security & Improved Nutrition & Promote Sustainable Agriculture” 

What This Means: Reconsidering the way we grow and consume food globally in order to provide nutritious food for all, while generating incomes and protecting the environment.

Goal 3: “Ensure Healthy Lives & Promote Well-Being For All At All Ages”

What This Means: Increasing life expectancy while reducing some of the common causes of death associated with child and maternal mortality. Eradicating diseases and addressing global health issues. 

Goal 4: “Ensure Inclusive & Equitable Quality Education & Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities For All”

What This Means: Using access to education to help people escape poverty and live healthy, sustainable lives while promoting a peaceful and tolerant society. 

Goal 5: “Achieve Gender Equality & Empower All Women & Girls” 

What This Means: Ending all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls across the globe. 

Goal 6: “Ensure Availability & Sustainable Management Of Water & Sanitation For All” 

What This Means: Providing clean, safe water and sanitation systems for everyone. These systems will not cause any adverse effect on the environment.  

Goal 7: “Ensure Access To Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable & Modern Energy For All”  

What This Means: Giving everyone the education and the opportunity to use sustainable energy for the benefit of the people and the planet. 

Goal 8: “Promote Sustained, Inclusive & Sustainable Economic Growth, Full & Productive Employment & Decent Work For All”

What This Means: Creating decent jobs for all to improve global living standards. 

Goal 9: “Build Resilient Infrastructure, Promote Inclusive & Sustainable Industrialisation & Foster Innovation”  

What This Means: Creating investments in infrastructure including transport, sanitation, energy and technology to empower communities through sustainable development. 

Goal 10: “Reduce Inequality Within & Among Countries”

What This Means: Creating a better world by making all people equal, regardless of race, gender, income, religion or sexuality. 

Goal 11: “Make Cities & Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient & Sustainable” 

What This Means:  Achieving sustainability by creating career and business opportunities for all, along with safe, affordable housing. 

Goal 12: “Ensure Sustainable Consumption & Production Patterns”

What This Means: Changing the way we use our resources to produce and consume goods to achieve economic growth and sustainability. 

Goal 13: “Take Urgent Action To Combat Climate Change And Its Impacts”

What This Means: Putting measures in place to reduce the effects of greenhouse gas emissions before they become irreversible. 

Goal 14: “Conserve & Sustainably Use The Oceans, Seas & Marine Resources For Sustainable Development”

What This Means: Seek to undo the damage that has led to 40% of our oceans being heavily affected by pollution. Implement sustainable measures to reduce this impact and avoid further threat to marine biodiversity. 

Goal 15: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” 

What This Means: Reducing the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity and the effects of climate change on land. 

Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”

What This Means: Eliminating violence and conflict across the globe so that all people can live peacefully.    

Goal 17: “Strengthen The Means Of Implementation & Revitalise The Global Partnership For Sustainable Development”

What This Means: Using strong global partnerships and cooperation to achieve the Sustainability Development. 

As well as 17 goals there are 169 targets to meet the goals and that is where it can get a little complicated …. so where do you start?

The SDG BusinessHub is a great source of information and inspiration. The hub was designed to ‘provide business with a powerful framework to translate global needs and ambitions into business solutions’.

So, Why Are SDGs Good for Business?

As well as understanding what may be driving the consumer, who ultimately we are producing products for,  SDGs are important because:

  • They instill customer trust and loyalty. There is growing evidence that consumers are increasingly mindful of a company’s ‘sustainability credentials and are prepared to vote with their wallets’;
  • Fossil fuels will be replaced by other forms of renewable energy and the more these are used, the lower costs will become;
  • Instability increases risk. Tackling these types of issues through your business or community will ultimately provide a secure supply chain and from a business standpoint, protect you more;
  • Diversity into new markets can provide a profitable investment, this could be from your choice of product to a process you adopt. These will give you additional USPs too;
  • They are topics that are being taught in schools and are questions that are being asked when recruiting. These topics are fast becoming part of our social conscious, having an answer for those questions will impact retention and recruitment which in turn will impact growth.

Further Reading

With 17 goals and 169 targets that vary from being specific to relatively generic, you can interpret them and apply them directly to your business or life without extensive research. Alternatively you can refer to the Social Progress Index that may make this challenge easier. This framework pockets areas of change into three sections and uses a scoring system based on how they are implemented.

Image result for structure of the social progress index

Do Goals Work?

In 2001 the UN agreed a set of Millennium Development Goals where the target was to halve the proportion of people globally living in poverty by 2015. The goal was to reduce global poverty from 36% to 18% by 2015. This was achieved, with the reduction being at 12% in 2015. This shows you that the world can get better. 


blog Image for Our Stance on Sustainability

Our Stance on Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is an ever-present topic here at The Pen Warehouse and we have seen a very obvious acceleration in media concern over the past six months. We have no doubt that Distributors will face significant pressure in the coming months and years to issue statements regarding their stance on the environment and we would like to help by issuing our own statement as a starting point. We are fully aware that much of Distributor’s activity is actually a reflection of what their Suppliers do and, as a leading trade supplier, we have a responsibility to equip our Distributors with answers before the questions are asked.

The following steps towards improvement will continue to evolve over time as we learn from our journey towards a more sustainable future.

We have adopted a three-step approach:

  • Research before taking action.
  • Implement change once due diligence has been finalised.
  • Publishing the truth; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.


Research is powerful. That’s why we’ve set about implementing various research methods to make sure we’re educated and equipped to provide sustainable product options, services and business choices. We want to arm our customers with the facts so that they can make the best choices, both in business and in product selection. How will we do this? 

  • Use of our in-house laboratory for internal product testing, including:-
  1. FTIR for in-depth material analysis. This device determines the composition of plastics, metals, chemicals and inks. It is a powerful device to determine safety, quality and conformance to set standards. 
  2. Writing Test Machine to make sure our pen refills perform to longevity standards. Getting more life from your pen will play into the sustainability discussion going forward, so it’s important your customer gets what they are paying for.
  3. We have installed several other testing devices including viscometers, precision balances, triple-roll mill, Laser tester, coating thickness measurement and many more which are necessary for a fully-functional laboratory.
  • Setting up a controlled compost environment to verify claims of biodegradability and compostability. At the moment, we’re putting bioplastics to the test to help people avoid incorrectly disposing of products in unsuitable environments. You can watch the live feed here. 
  • Attending various eco events such as the Westminster Energy and Environment & Transport Forum. This event will provide vital education in reducing avoidable plastic waste by way of incentives, targets and policy priorities.
  • We work with external testing houses and universities to provide certification and specialist analysis.
  • In-house product design team.
  • In-house Research Chemist, Dr. Rebecca Townsend, to manage our R&D and compliance operations.


The research that we have conducted so far and the future research we intend to carry out will equip us with the information necessary to make real and meaningful changes to the way we do business. 

Acquiring a new HQ last year allowed us to start with a clean slate, not only in terms of the layout and facilities, but also in terms of the environmental characteristics that should be adopted during the year-long refit and refurbishment.

Innovations House

  • Our entire premises now has a new double-skinned roof – effectively a roof above a roof. This has brought about significant benefits due to its level of thermal insulation. We are working on the basis that prevention is better than cure as it will be naturally warmer in Winter and cooler in Summer.
  • All office windows will be laminated with reflective foil to keep heat out in summer.
  • LED lighting throughout the entire facility. This was a significant short-term cost for a long-term environmental saving. LED lighting uses only 14% of the energy of incandescent lights for equivalent levels of luminance.
  • Fan-assisted air movement in all offices to reduce the use of air-conditioning units.
  • Gas heating throughout the factory and offices as it reduces the CO2 footprint by 30% compared with electrical heating.
  • All cardboard is compacted and sent for recycling, or reused during the production process.
  • All spent solvents are recovered by distillation in-house.
  • Exploiting the full potential of video conferencing to communicate with all remote staff, including field sales, to avoid unnecessary journeys to our HQ.
  • We use 80Kw Solar Panels on our remote warehouse. This provides surplus electricity for the grid throughout the year during times of  high electrical output and low demand. 

These steps are only some of the changes we have made already. We have several more planned, some quite significant, and we will communicate these to our Distributors as we go forward.


The truth is not about highlighting what others are not doing – the environmental stakes are far too high for that. It’s about transparency so that our Distributors are given the choice to do what they will with the facts as we see them. We are also very mindful that we are all in business to prosper, but we have to be aware that brings with it the moral hazard of accepting a convenient falsehood without question instead of searching for the inconvenient truth. Our research is showing there is certainly no end of convenient falsehoods out there when it comes to sustainability claims.

The first truth is that virtually all products and services have an adverse effect on the environment as they will, in some way, increase the unwanted production of CO2 – that nasty greenhouse gas we all want to reduce.

That’s why we’re all about making good choices when it comes to purchasing products, as opting for a high-quality item that you can reuse again and again is actually far more sustainable than recycling old products into new ones. Our stance here is clear: a well-chosen product that can be reused is the most favourable when it comes to its sustainable credentials.  This is a stance we take with our product selection, but also with the products we use in our day-to-day business. 

Take plastic recycling, for example. The process of melting used plastics down to form new products releases harmful fumes into the environment and adversely affects air quality. This process also produces carbon dioxide,  contributing to the very thing recycling aims to reduce – global warming!

To add to the problem, recycled plastics are invariably degraded by the process, a term referred to a ‘downcycling’. In other words, recycled products are not suitable for the production of quality mouldings unless a significant amount of virgin polymer is added to this mix to restore some of its chemical characteristics. What’s more, remelting recycled plastic products normally results in a totally unusable material that has to be incinerated or dumped in landfill.

Here are just a few reasons why we believe in the power of reusing and repurposing: 

  • It’s cheaper! Finding new uses for old products is a great way to save money and helps to avoid unnecessary spending on new items.
  • It’s kinder to the planet! Reusing saves energy and reduces pollution that would have been created during the recycling process.   
  • It encourages responsible, conscious buying! When you buy a product with the intention of reusing it again and again, you will naturally opt for high-quality, durable products rather than disposable or single-use items. 
  • It avoids contamination! A big issue with recycling occurs when toxins from one product work their way into new products during the reforming process. This is particularly nasty when you think of contaminants ending up in food or drink packaging.

Looking at our product materials and researching their advantages and disadvantages, here’s our list of how we see the products we use in terms of their eco-friendiness:

Packaging & Samples

We asked ourselves: “How do we reduce the amount of harmful packaging in our supply chain and, if it cannot be reduced, how do we improve its sustainability?” This led us to carry out an inventory of purchases and a review of the highest volumes of packaging used. Packing tape and pen sleeves came out as the top offenders, so we decided this would be an ideal place to begin improving our packaging from a sustainability standpoint.

Read our blog on packaging here to learn about some of the changes we’ve already made. You may find that some of these changes can be adopted by your organisation or perhaps you could suggest them to other suppliers. 

Certification, Testing, Compliance & QC

We are 14001 accredited. This is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). Having this accreditation provides a stable framework that we can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements solely by ourselves.

We are actively pursuing all known avenues with regard to comprehensive accreditation on our business and products and you will be kept abreast of all developments as they arise.

Donations & Giveaways

We donate any pens that don’t meet our quality control standards to local schools, the Aldershot Rotary Club, educational organisations in the Philippines and numerous charities in Africa to avoid them being sent to landfill. This is a great way for us to ensure that our product waste is being reused in an effective and beneficial way. 


Our R&D team has made sustainability a top priority and are continually researching new and improved methods to ensure the sustainability of both our products and our business.

  1. We are constantly looking into new materials, making sure that our products and packaging are as sustainable as possible. This includes verifying claims about “green materials”.
  2. Reading up on the latest developments in science and technology in the area of sustainability.
  3. Introducing new technology into production has been one of our key improvements in this area, making sure to minimise chemical and solvent waste by recycling everything that we can. 
  4. R&D has also introduced regular monitoring of our water supplies to make sure nothing we do causes harm to the environment. 

In Summary 

With eco awareness being such a hot topic, it’s unlikely that you’ve not come across the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Did you notice how ‘Reuse’ comes before ‘Recycle’? That’s because recycling should not be relied on so heavily, but instead be treated as the next port of call after consciously reducing our waste, rethinking our buying habits and reusing products on a long-term basis.    

These three words not only describe the very essence of environmentally responsible consumer behaviour, but give us guidelines for true sustainability rather than a temporary solution. 

Further Reading

If you’re keen to learn more about the importance of conscious buying and reusing, here’s some interesting reading:

blog Image for Make Sense of Sustainability

Make Sense of Sustainability

As human beings, our planet means the world to us – literally! That’s why
we need to make sure it stays around for as long as possible. But if you’ve
been pulling your hair out trying to keep up with the jargon that surrounds
sustainability, don’t panic! You’ve come to the right place to start making
sense of it all.

We understand it can be quite the challenge knowing your biodiversity from your bioaccumulation. And what exactly is the difference between carbon footprint and carbon offsetting, anyway? In order to navigate all of this new lingo, and in honour of World Kindness Day, we’ve put together a handy glossary to make sustainability a little less daunting. We’ve been using this information as an in-house tool which came about through product development and selection. There’s plenty more to add and we’d love to hear from you if you have any additions. Please email your suggestions to to become part of the discussion!

Now, let’s dive into some of the terms you’re likely to come across in your
quest for eco-consciousness in the promotions industry and beyond:

Popular Product Materials

Product Material

Sustainable Credentials

Sustainable Considerations

The Good and the Not So Good


Bioplastics are plastic-like materials made from natural sources like vegetable fats, oils, starches, straw, wood chips and sawdust.

The Good

Made from natural materials which are renewable

Does not contain toxic chemicals or compounds

Biodegradable and compostable under the correct conditions

The Not So Good

There is A LOT more research needed on this material and its sustainability credentials. A
call for evidence
was recently published by the UK government on the sustainability of bio-based and
biodegradable plastic and they are now considering the responses. At the moment, there is a question mark on whether this product is
adding to the plastic issue or helping to solve it.

Bioplastics are a product of farming and take up valuable capacity that could be used for growing much-needed food

Most types are not recyclable

Local authorities have no way of recycling bioplastic, meaning it will end up in landfill or being incinerated – causing further
release of CO₂ and pollutants into the atmosphere. We contacted our local authority on this point and they have confirmed that bioplastic cannot be recycled. Their letter can be found here

Only some types of bioplastic are compostable and those that are require industrial composting
facilities. They cannot be discarded in domestic compost bins

The use of compost can be compromised by any ink printed on the product, as this could pass into  the food chain


When recycling bioplastic pens, remove the refill and spring

Remove the ink from the product where possible

Remember that composting requires a set temperature

In the promotions industry, we have mainly seen pens and bags made of this material

Printed pens and packaging should not be placed in composting bins as the print will contaminate the compost heap and, if the compost is used as fertiliser, contaminants will enter the food chain


Organic farming promotes ecological balance and
biodiversity by not using harmful chemicals in the
growing process.

There’s a long-standing joke that organic food is what your grandparents called food! That’s because we’ve become reliant on pesticides and chemical fertilisers to grow crops on a commercial scale.

The Good


Better taste

Contains high levels of antioxidants

The Not So Good

Organic farming requires more labour and higher production costs than pesticide-assisted farming, resulting in an expensive end product

It cannot produce enough food for the world’s population


Bamboo is a renewable natural product and the fastest growing plant on Earth.

The Good

Naturally pest-resistant – requires no nasty pesticides!

Requires far less water than similar plants

Regrows to adult size in 3-5 years (it can grow 2 feet in 1 day!)

Absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide than similar plants

Produces 35% more oxygen than similar plants

Bamboo fibres that make up the natural element of processed bamboo products reduce the amount of plastic required

The Not So Good

Some bamboo products use a chemical process to convert the material into the end product

Processed bamboo products only contain bamboo fibres and the rest is made up of polymer

Processed bamboo products cannot be recycled and must be put in a landfill or incinerated

Processed bamboo products cannot be composted


If the product is made from processed bamboo and is used to store food or liquid, it should
have tests completed prior to use to ensure chemicals are not released when heated

Presently, we see products made from processed bamboo across our industry


Recycled materials are products made from discarded or no longer needed products or materials.

The Good

This product will have been made up of one or more materials from an item previously used and no longer needed

The Not So Good

Product quality or colour can be impacted

There is no universal standard for accreditation


Trusting your supply chain is key here to ensuring the products are as described

Post-consumer recycled material is the best form of recycled product


Recyclable materials can be reused in order to make new materials.

See Sustainable Considerations for “Recycled”


Plastic is made from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels to create a solid material.

The most popular plastics are:

  • PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate
  • PE-HD: High-density Polythene
  • PVC: polyvinyl chloride

PET plastic – Highly-recyclable material accepted by 94% of UK councils.

PE-HD: High-density Polythene – collected by 92% of UK councils.

PVC: polyvinyl chloride – Not generally collected from households for recycling, which could explain why PVC
use is in decline.

PE-LD: Low-density Polythene & PP: Polypropylene – Not generally collected for recycling, but mixed
plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.

PS: Polystyrene – Not generally collected from
households for recycling with the exception of some commercial polystyrene.

LDPE – Only recyclable at specialist facilities.

The Good


Strong & long lasting


Can be sterile

The Not So Good 


Impacts wildlife and marine life if not disposed of correctly

Takes up landfill space

Not all plastic can be recycled, so contact your local facility before attempting to recycle it

Plastic cannot be recycled an infinite number of times

Recyclability isn’t always clear or consistent


Contact your local authority

Plastic products have a long shelf life when made well

Reusable plastic products are still a great sustainable choice because they will not be thrown away, so choose wisely when buying plastic products

Wood A natural, renewable material commonly used in construction and product design. The Good 





Biodegradable in its raw state

The Not So Good

The use of wood in manufacturing contributes to deforestation, leading to loss of habitats and increased carbon emissions


Make sustainable choices by opting for FSC® certified or reclaimed wood

The EU has introduced legal measures to protect forests. Wood from outside the EU may have originated from endangered species and tends not be supported by replanting initiatives

Be aware that some wood treatments can compromise the biodegradability of the wood

Paper A versatile material made from pressed pulp fibres, commonly derived from wood sources. The Good



Usually derived from natural sources

Recycled paper production saves more energy than the production of virgin paper

The Not So Good

Directly contributes to deforestation

Toxic chemicals are used to recycle paper

When decomposing, paper releases a harmful greenhouse gas called methane

Paper production requires very large volumes of water


Always opt for paper from sustainable sources like the FSC®

Remember that paper is only recyclable when clean – it cannot be stained with grease, foodstuffs, paint or dirt

Be sure to remove any plastic wrapping from newspapers and magazines before recycling. This must be recycled separately

To determine if paper is recyclable, scrunch paper up. If it remains scrunched and doesn’t spring back, it is suitable for recycling.



Sustainable Credentials

Sustainable Considerations

The Good and the Not So Good


A substance or product that is able to decompose by
exposure to bacteria or other living organisms.

The GoodBiodegradable products reduce carbon dioxide levels and greenhouse gas emissions

Break down naturally and don’t release harmful compounds when doing so

The Not So Good

Depend on certain weather conditions to break down properly

Do not decompose in water, so they won’t solve the issue of marine pollution


Remember they must be disposed of very specifically


A natural process in which microorganisms, bacteria and
fungi break down organic matter into a nutrient-rich

The Good

Creates a natural, organic fertiliser

Reduces landfill waste

Improves soil health

The Not So Good

Not all compostable products are suitable for domestic compost bins

Compostable items cannot be placed with your standard recycling


Widely Recycled: can be recycled at 75% or more of UK

Check Locally: recyclable at 20-75% of UK facilities

Not Yet Recycled: Recycled by less than 20% of UK

The act of converting waste materials into new products to avoid sending the waste to landfill.

The Good

Recycling ensures a secure supply chain by processing non-biodegradable plastics that are already in circulation and turning them into new products

Conserves valuable non-renewable resources

Reduces landfill waste

The Not So Good

Some areas do not have access to recycling facilities or simply can’t afford them, so are forced to use landfills as a cheaper alternative

Recycling and manufacturing products from recycled materials uses energy


Not all products that you might assume are recyclable are actually recyclable, so always check the symbols carefully

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy works by harnessing power from
renewable resources like sunlight, wind, rain, and tides so that we’re not relying on depleting or
damaging sources.

The GoodSustainable and abundant

Takes advantage of power that would otherwise go to waste

Low-maintenance systems

The Not So Good

Can result in air pollution

Requires a lot of energy to produce

Can be dependent on seasons

Popular Accreditations


What the Accreditation Stands For


Forest Stewardship Council

Any product that is FSC® Certified has met the
environmental and social requirements of the council.
This makes FSC® paper and card a great option for
sustainability, as the organisation ensures that all
wood harvested for use is replaced to protect against
deforestation. Choosing FSC® products also guarantees
that certain sections of forests and woodlands are left
completely intact to protect wildlife and their
habitats. All products can be traced from store to

Fair Trade

The symbol of a person triumphantly raising one hand in
the air means better pay and trading standards for
producers in developing countries.


ISO14001 is the international standard that specifies
requirements for an effective environmental management
system (EMS). It provides a framework that an
organisation can follow, rather than establishing
environmental performance requirements.

Eco Terms

So, now that we’ve brushed up on our products and processes, let’s take a
closer look at some general eco terms and what they really mean:

Biodiversity: Biodiversity is the level and variation of life in a
particular environment. High biodiversity means that plant and animal life
is thriving, while low biodiversity suggests that only a small amount of
natural life is supported.

Bioaccumulation: This super-sciency sounding term is what we call the
accumulation of materials within an organism. Over time, chemicals and
pesticides build up in certain organisms – often at a much faster rate than
the organism can get rid of those substances…

Carbon Emissions: Carbon emissions are released when fossil fuels are
burnt, causing harmful greenhouse gasses to be released into the

Carbon Footprint: Carbon footprint is determined by the amount of carbon
dioxide a person, product or organisation emits.

Climate Change: Climate change is a change in climate patterns caused by an increase in carbon dioxide. This has a knock-on effect on the environment and causes global temperatures to rise, leading to the shrinking of glaciers and disruptions to natural habitats.

Watch this no-nonsense video for a straightforward and simple explanation
of climate change:

Corporate Responsibility: In terms of sustainability, corporate
responsibility refers to the self-regulated goals of a company or
organisation to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable
business practices.

Deforestation: This refers to the removal of trees from forest areas to
make room for other things that certainly aren’t forests… When
deforestation occurs, habitats are lost, and greenhouse gases are

Eco: ‘Eco’ has become an umbrella term for anything that is beneficial for
the environment. It also refers to any product or practice that is less
harmful than non-eco alternatives.

Global Warming: This describes the warming up of the planet over time as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse Effect: Gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat from the Sun, causing the Earth to get hotter. This process is similar to the
heat-trapping phenomenon experienced with actual greenhouses (N.B. actual greenhouses are not the cause of the issue, so don’t go hurling bricks into your neighbour’s garden in a bid to reduce the Greenhouse Effect!)

Greenwashing: This relatively new term that suggests that an
environmental claim is misleading and has just been made in order to make
the manufacturer appear to care about the planet.

Sustainable: And just like that, we’ve come full circle in our discussion
of sustainability jargon. The word itself means maintaining something at a
certain level, so in terms of the Earth, we want to make sure we are using
processes and materials that we can continue to use over a long period of
time in order to cause as little damage to the environment as possible.

In Summary

We hope this article helps to demystify some of the jargon around
sustainability, and we encourage you to share this information with your
friends and family so that we can all understand the change we’re working
towards that little bit better.

Further Reading

Want to put your knowledge of eco symbols to the test? Check out these
interesting articles to learn more:

blog Image for Holding Our Top Packaging Offenders Accountable

Holding Our Top Packaging Offenders Accountable

Examining sustainability within your business is not a task to be taken lightly. Solar panels, LED lighting, shredding of paper and cardboard for recycling, waste separation and compacting have long been part of our standard operating procedures across all sites. However, the waste and recycling discussion around the products we offer and how they are packaged ramped up as a result of our 2019 product selection process. With hundreds of products laid out on our boardroom table, our attention was eventually drawn to the floor, now barely visible because of discarded plastic sleeves, bubble wrap and plastic packaging tape.

Our objective or ‘challenge’ became clear; ‘how do we reduce the amount of harmful packaging in our supply chain and if it cannot be reduced, how do we improve its sustainability?’ As part of this process, we adopted six steps to precipitate change towards a more sustainable future.

Through stages 1. to 4., the following packaging consumables were identified as the items that needed to change immediately:

MaterialProductSustainability Issue 
Polypropylene TapeWould need to be removed from boxes before going into recycling plant. Production of tape has a large carbon footprint compared to alternatives.
Polyethylene Sample bags, pen sleeves, mailing bags and strapping The sheer volume would mean even if sent to a recycling plant, the time for the product to breakdown would be hundreds of years. Recycling plants are over subscribed and this is adding to the problem.
AdhesiveTapeThe glue makes the product difficult to breakdown.

In our quest to narrow down alternative packaging materials, we were left with two potentially viable choices: bioplastics and paper. Our Head of R&D and Materials Research Chemist, Dr. Rebecca Townsend, is leading the charge on our sustainability journey and has been busy researching and testing materials. Dr. Townsend gives her commentary, by way of this article.

It’s a very useful read and not without its surprises.

Top offenders! 

After an inventory of purchases and a review of the highest volumes used, packaging tape and pen sleeves came out on top. So, that is where we started our mission to improve our packaging from a sustainability standpoint.

We get through about nine million cellophane pen sleeves each year.  Sleeving is an essential part of the quality process as they protect the pen’s finish and print during packing and transit. With quality remaining a paramount consideration, we set about finding an alternative to cellophane.

We set the bar high because the replacement material not only had to be fully biodegradable and recyclable, it also had to be a material that would be readily accepted as recyclable waste by local authorities. Further to Dr. Townsend’s research, bioplastic was ruled out completely and we were left with the only viable alternative: paper. What could be more simple than a paper pen sleeve? In reality, it’s taken almost a year to find a suitable manufacturing partner that was able to provide biodegradable water-based glue and was also prepared to make the format and size of sleeve we required at very low cost. We have now finally arrived at the point where we can offer paper pen sleeves as an alternative to cellophane and we hope that, by our example, other suppliers in our industry will follow suit. In the interest of the environment, we are making our pen sleeves available for purchase by distributors wishing to ethically sleeve pens from other suppliers.

We also determined that our annual Polypropylene packing tape consumption each year is a massive 360km long – equivalent to the distance from London to Amsterdam.  Rather than using plastic tape to secure our cartons (which must be removed from the cardboard before being placed in a recycling facility), we’ve decided to switch to a more sustainable gummed kraft paper tape option. This tape will serve as a biodegradable alternative to traditional plastic tape and can be fully recycled by local authorities and industrial recycling plants together with the cardboard after use.

Plastic packaging tape can take in excess of four-hundred years to break down in landfill. Because recycling plants tend not to remove tape from cartons, it all ends up unnecessarily clogging up these landfill sites. Kraft paper tape is also stronger than plastic tape and consequently requires less per carton. It’s certainly more aesthetically pleasing than plastic tape as the kraft tape blends in with the box. The real beauty, however, is that it sends a powerful message about your stance on the environment to your customer.

The use of gummed tape combined with the reuse of cardboard boxes and the shredding of non confidential waste for void filling in cartons helps us to cut back on our overall waste.

This is just the start of our changes. Paper and card sample packaging options are nearly ready for launch and we are working with our packaging partners in the UK to find local sustainable alternatives for strapping and other materials used during our production process.

What more can be done in the supply chain? 

ASK your suppliers. We have written to ours in the Far East and they are actively making the switch to gummed tape, which means we do not have to remove the standard plastic tape when recycling or reusing.

RESEARCH alternatives. We found this the most time consuming aspect of the project. However the following exhibitions and events will prove to aid any investigation process you undertake:

  • 16-17 September 2020 – Recycling & Waste Management Exhibition RWM is the UK’s largest trade show for recycling and waste management, providing the biggest platform for the latest innovations shaping the sustainability sector.
  • 6 May 2020 – National Sustainability Expo Visit the National Sustainability Expo where representatives from pharmaceutical, food, aviation, retail, hospitality, food, construction, manufacturing, IT, logistics and supply chain and energy sectors will deliver compelling case studies that will help you create a sustainable business of your own or adapt your current business model.
  • 5 December 2019 – BusinessGreen Technology Festival BusinessGreen inaugural Technology Festival is a celebration of the way green technology is transforming the global economy and leading the way for a healthier and cleaner future.

JOIN the conversation, contact with any suggestions, questions or comments you have. We would love to hear from you!

blog Image for Putting the Brakes on the Great Acceleration

Putting the Brakes on the Great Acceleration

In our last blog, we covered the Environmental Bill which sets the scene for the future framework as outlined by law. But how exactly did the environment become such an important topic? Let’s take a look at what triggered the sustainability conversation and what it means.

The Trigger 

The Great Acceleration is a period in history where industrialisation and globalisation (or more simply, ‘progress’) sees the increased use of natural resources at a rapid rate to meet consumer demand. This growth has had its consequences, with the environment being one of the largest impacted. 

It began with the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s, which marked the beginning of a series of advancements to the economy and technology which would alter the shape of society for the next 250-years.  WWF depicts the change in the relationship between humans and the Earth along with its impact during this period in a short informational video:

The Detail

These advances, which can be seen in agricultural techniques, mass production, fossil fuel usage, global communication, urban population and transport innovations, have contributed directly to the changing face of Earth’s geology and ecosystems. The changes illuminate the true scale of the human imprint and have a direct affect on land, oceans, coastal zones and atmospheres. To give context to the degree of our environmental impact, you can reflect on the Earth’s increasing levels of carbon dioxide concentration. Changes to the environment at these increased levels are evidenced in the rise of human-driven change with the present concentration being reached 100 times faster than at any other time during the previous 420,000 years. 

The Great Acceleration uses a set of Socio-economic and Earth system trends from 1750 to 2000 to assess the extent of environmental impact and change.  We can see the unmistakable increase in system pressures correspond with trends like energy use and paper production, indicating that ‘progress’ is not slowing down.

So, what can be done at a global level?  

In response to this, a group of prominent scientists have established a set of nine planetary boundaries (see link below) which should not be breached if humanity is to continue to thrive. The scientists claim that any failure to adhere to these boundaries could bring about environmental changes which are impossible to reverse, and as such we must be mindful not to push the limits of these margins to the point of no return. The boundaries apply to the following areas:

  • Climate Change: Change in weather patterns through the release of CO2 and greenhouse gasses
  • Novel Entities: Introduction of matter into the environment by humans that could have disruptive effects on the earth system (a big one for our industry!)
  • Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: The decrease of the protective layer around the planet
  • Atmospheric Aerosol Loading: Impact that aerosols have on the environment such as cloud formation
  • Ocean Acidification: pH increase in oceans caused by CO2 increase which affects marine life
  • Biochemical Flows: Pollution caused by the production of fertiliser
  • Freshwater Use: The amount of freshwater (drinking water) being used
  • Land-System Change: Changes to land coverage as a consequence of human use
  • Biosphere Integrity: Extinction of species.

It is important to note that global changes do not happen on their own. They are triggered by interacting stresses which cause a threshold to be crossed and a rapid change in state to occur. In order to manage the impact of our socio-eco trends and in turn slow the rapid progress of the Great Acceleration, we must respect and adhere to the limits of planetary boundaries by relating them to our own lives and practices … and that is where we all step in. 

What are we doing?

Now that we are clear on the reasons why change has to come, here at The Pen Warehouse we feel that we need to start altering some aspects of the way we do business. This will include decreasing our use of critical resources such as fossil fuels and finding renewable ways of fueling our lives and enterprises. To see a change, we must be the change.

We have started this change internally and invite you to next week’s content where we will walk you through key developments, discuss how they came about and what it means for the environment.  Follow our EcoSense series to find out more about the steps we are taking towards a shared sustainable future. 

Extra reading

Check out some interesting literature on the subject:

blog Image for Environmental Bill Marks Big Changes for Business Operations and Sustainability

Environmental Bill Marks Big Changes for Business Operations and Sustainability

The 15th October 2019 marks a pivotal shift in the Government’s efforts towards tackling climate change. In what is perhaps the most direct approach to date, officials have drafted and submitted an Environmental Bill to Parliament. Its purpose is to protect our country’s natural landscapes and overcome the most pressing environmental issues of our time. The Bill was presented for first reading in the House of Lords and must proceed through several readings before it can be ratified into law. 

The Environmental Bill will act to ensure our eco-considerations are being met and maintained as Brexit and our eventual departure from the EU draws nearer. It will set standards for England with the intention of other countries following suit, implementing environmental initiatives which will have both immediate and long-lasting benefits. 

Once in place, the measures outlined in the Bill will be legally-binding and will hold governmental bodies accountable for their actions, prompting a collective effort towards zero net emissions by 2050. 

The incentives of the Environmental Bill will be upheld by a new public body known as the Office for Environmental Protection, who will ensure that the Government and all relevant parties are aligning their practices with the policies.

The Bill, which applies to the whole of England, will use targets to improve air quality, restore biodiversity, transform waste management and protect water resources to create a sustainable infrastructure for the benefit of future generations.  

Another key focus of the proposal is to tackle the detrimental effects of disposable plastics by bringing in various charges to dissuade people from their use. This notion is inspired by the 2015 plastic bag charge, which has since seen plastic bag use cut by a staggering 90% since the initiative came into practice. 

It’s no secret that undoing the damage caused by generations of poor practice will require not only monumental effort, but also mutual effort. As such, the proposed legislation set out by the Environmental Bill will inevitably trickle down to affect smaller organisations, allowing the country to examine and improve their carbon footprint in a holistic fashion. 

As a company, our environmental impact is a pressing consideration and we are actively reviewing our operations and product offerings with this in mind.  Being ISO 14001 accredited and FSC registered means we are required to operate to the highest standard, however, developments with the environment certainly make us more aware of improvements needed and we will continue to evolve in this area.

We believe that the challenges facing our environment are much more than creating a competitive advantage and we have no intention of going down that road. In order to tackle these issues head-on, our industry needs to work together to reduce our collective CO₂ footprint and impact on the environment. For that reason, we will be disclosing the measures we are taking so all Suppliers and Distributors can be inspired. In return, we welcome ideas for change from all players in our industry so that we can make effective change together.

Please join us for our new series #EcoSense each Wednesday, where we will navigate sustainability in a practical and safe way to benefit our industry and the environment.