We're on a mission to significantly reduce the impacts of single use plastic packaging in the outdoor industry

Industry-wide problems demand an industry-sized response. For this reason over 45 brands and retailers from the outdoor industry are working together to take responsibility for their single use plastic poly bags.

One alternative we are implementing is to remove and properly care for protective plastic bags before they end up in incinerators, landfills, or are sent for export. Started in 2018, the Single Use Plastics Project, (an initiative of the European Outdoor Group) has sought to research and assess the impact of plastic bags in the supply chain of outdoor clothing and equipment, and to work swiftly towards making a meaningful impact on the problem.

Build the Baseline
Researched the scale and proportions of the problem within the industry. Met with alternative material providers, academia, researchers, sustainable packaging experts, and followed our poly bags from manufacturing through to waste management.
Explore the Paths
Looked at all potential solutions and material alternatives; organised, structured, and narrowed the proposals while simultaneously growing the project team. Researched the ecological impacts of our plastic packaging against several material alternatives, and followed the end-of-life scenarios for our poly bags.We also tested a new system for managing our poly bags, collecting and recycling 3.2tns of plastic from retailers and brands in 8 different countries, this recyclate was analysed for purity, value, contamination, and potential improvements.
Implement and Scale
We published industry poly bag standards, authored a large-scale report that collates findings from our research and testing, and commenced regular removal of poly bags before they enter municipal waste streams. Implemented the recycling process collectively to aggregate, bale, and transport poly bags to regional recycling partners.
2022 & Beyond
Next Steps
The project team have identified a few key areas of focus going forward. We currently have two recycling cooperatives with collections taking place early 2022, a downloadable report with our findings, and active research around product lines within the industry that can ship across value chain segments without a poly bag.Join us and help push this work forward, contact scott.nelson@europeanoutdoorgroup.com
June 2018
Dan is shipped off to work with ze Germans as Head of Product at Influencer DB.

Adam decides to stay in Sydney and cut his teeth as a Product Designer with one of Sydney's leading design studios.

Whilst in Germany, Dan worked with with brands such as Daniel Wellington and BMW - Ja!

Adam worked with clients like Vodafone, TAFE NSW, Adobe and also won the 'Good Design Australia' award for his work on the Seatfrog website.

There are no perfect solutions, and most alternatives are still worryingly problematic.
Our system is not intended to be the solution to the plastic problem, but rather a collective step in the right direction. Life cycle assessments and impact comparisons agree that recycled plastic is a superior packaging material in terms of ecological impact along almost every single segment of its lifecycle except at disposal.

Alternative materials tend to shift rather than mitigate environmental impacts, and often present new and increasingly problematic negative externalities.

We view this as a systemic issue and not a materials issue — therefore, solutions should be systems-based and not materials-based.

Initially, we sought a completely plastic-free material to protect the garments and equipment en route from Asia to Europe. Although we continue to maintain that plastic substitutes should be explored and deployed in certain applications, this did not hold true for our specific use case.

We were surprised to find that our initial position was misaligned with the predominant findings within the research community.

As it turns out, recycled plastic does some things very well.

The problem is not the material, it is the linear systems we continue to support.
The selection of recycled polyethylene as the poly bag material should not be considered as maintenance of the status quo. When coupled with system improvements that enable outright elimination of poly bags (where feasible) and capture of poly bags before they reach consumers, the incorporation of maximum levels of recycled content alongside implementation of this robust set of design-for-recycling considerations, has the potential to transform the system of using poly bags, significantly reducing waste, decoupling from fossil feedstocks, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and revolutionising the sustainability profile of poly bags. 

The issue we continue to see is that plastic is particularly problematic at its end of life, and this is caused by a variety of reasons. Our bags end primarily at retail stores and with consumers, and in both situations the only option is to dispose of the plastic using local municipal waste systems.

These systems often cannot process, or do not process plastic films owing to the economics of waste management. The reality of what happens to a plastic bag after it is used is much more complicated than we originally understood, and requires us to have increased accountability and cooperation to make an impact.

Want to know more about why we have not selected an alternative material over recycled plastic for our poly bags?

Read Our REport

Want to know more about what we recommend for poly bag design?

Read Our Standards Document

The Current System is Linear

At present, we rely on consumers and retail stores to be responsible and recycle, and municipalities to be capable of caring for plastic bags. Products are placed in protective plastic bags (made almost exclusively from virgin materials) at the manufacturer and stay that way until they are taken out by the consumer after a purchase. The plastic bag is then discarded, and even if done responsibly will most likely end up in an incinerator, landfill, or sent for export.

Our goal is to make things a bit more round.

We would like to strip off plastic after it has ensured that product has safely arrived with brands and retailers. They send you the product, and then make sure the plastic is cared for and recycled. To do this we have joined together in a pan-European collaboration with specific recyclers who we can trust will keep these plastic bags far away from landfills or incinerators. We can create an industry-sized stream of clean, pre-sorted, homogenous plastics. Cared for this way, the material has tremendous value, and could be used for new products or even potentially in future generations of plastic bags. But most importantly, it can be verifiably returned locally to the resource stream.

This may not be the solution to the single use plastics problems, but it is a collective step in the right direction. Applied correctly across the industry, it can account for as much as 86% of the poly bags moving through the supply chain.

Who's Involved:

The Reports

Poly Bag Standards


Single Use Plastics
Project Report

Single Use Plastics Project Garment Poly Bag Standards PDF download

Project Report


Project Recommendations

Contact Us
The reports and working documents are for download and use by all parties looking to reduce the impact of Single Use Plastics in the supply chain.

The project is open to new organisations from across Europe, if you would like more information or to get involved in the project then please contact: Scott.Nelson@europeanoutdoorgroup.com
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