Plastic-free retail is becoming more common as those in the industry look to reduce their impact on the environment. While for many, it’s a target to work towards, Dandy’s Landscape Supplies Centre is a brand which has already taken the necessary steps to provide ethical packaging.
Here’s what Dandy’s Owner and CEO, Adam Dandy, had to say about the ways retailers can take the leap into plastic-free retail:
MR: Tell us about Dandy’s
AD: We sell landscape supplies. Our core products are soil, aggregates and bark. We moved into plastic-free packaging due to an obvious demand from our customers.
MR: When did you start to notice a demand to go plastic-free?
AD: Within 8 months of the BBC Blue Planet programme being broadcast, the demand was obvious. Customers have been really happy with the changes we’ve made. It was really difficult for us as an industry to try to ditch plastic. We hadn’t realised how addicted and dependent on it we’d become. Plastic is a really useful product. It lasts forever, which is obviously useful from a packaging perspective, but it is also the biggest problem. What you’ve got to take into account is that people are really only using a bag of gravel from a garden centre and taking it home, using and owning that bag for 24 hours. Then they’re disposing of, or burying that bag where it will potentially stay for the next 200 or so years. It was a matter of understanding that concept and accepting it, before coming up with a solution.
MR: How did you source a plastic-free alternative?
AD: We had to go to India to find a factory that made the hessian sacks so we could make the price as competitive as possible. We couldn’t afford to do it if we were buying off a middle man, so we had to go direct. There were hurdles to jump from a business perspective. We’ve basically gone back in time 100 years and started doing what they were doing before plastic. It was always there as an option, it just took some working out logistically.
MR: How has this change affected your business?
AD: Now we have a process in place, it’s fine. It’s actually cut some processes out as we were using a partly automated bagging line, but now we managed to get the bags with drawstrings instead of a sealed bag which you would slash with a knife and then put in the pin. You can reuse the bags we use now and away you go. It actually made our production process more simple because when they’re packing the bag on the bagging line, the operator fills the bag, pulls the drawstrings and it’s done. It took £10,000 of sealing units and contraptions out of the equation, so it’s not always more expensive in every area of the business to go plastic-free.
MR: What advice would you give to someone looking to go plastic-free?
AD: Do it! Expect there to be hurdles, but the advantages, customer loyalty and increased sales will outweigh any hurdles you face because it’s what your customers want at the end of the day, and that’s the way the industry is going.
You want to be ahead of the curve. A lot of competitors may be stuck in their ways and will have processes where they are dependent on the plastic product, so as a small business, it’s actually a really nice niche and gives you a bit of an advantage over the big boys.
To see more about ethical retailers who are shaping the future of the industry, click here.