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The global plastic picture

Globally today, we are producing twenty times more plastic than in the 1960s. Around one third of all plastic is used for packaging. By 2050 global plastic production will have to grow three to four times to satisfy our demand. A large proportion will end up in oceans where it will remain for centuries.

Suma workers rise to take on the Plastic Challenge!

Our responsibilities for the waste that we produce as individuals are important for us to acknowledge. For the last couple of years several workers have been involved in the Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge that takes place in June. We found that this campaign really raises awareness of how the small decisions that we make on a daily basis have a huge impact on quality of our oceans and wildlife. Workers who took part found the whole process challenging but ultimately empowering, knowing that as individuals we have the power to effect change. Many of the things we introduced during the challenge will stay with us and are now regular habits.

Suma packaging thoughts, considerations and practicalities

As an organisation, we take our packaging responsibilities very seriously and environmental concerns are at the forefront of all product developments. We commit regular time to research in order to ensure that we keep abreast of current legislation, best practice and innovative environmentally-friendly solutions.
Suma has shown a continuous commitment to help reduce packaging and explore different types of packaging. On many occasions we have pushed the boundaries of innovation, working in partnership to deliver innovative new packaging.
The subject is complex when we consider carbon footprint and product lifecycle. Sometimes what appears to be the best for the environment can have other implications, not immediately obvious. We take independent advice from experts in the field and in-depth analysis is needed to make sure that the choices that we make are the best for the environment.
For example did you know cardboard, even if recycled and made from unbleached paper, has a substantially higher carbon footprint than the oil-based plastic bags? Nothing is perfect, however; plastic bags further deplete non-renewable resources, and if not properly disposed of can linger on land and at sea.

Suma prepacks

All plastic film is made from waste bi-products from the petroleum industry. In 2010 we used the world’s first film made of at least 30% post-consumer recyclate (PCR).
Feedback from our customers was that this innovative packaging was not as strong as our previous plastic film and although the packaging was fully recyclable, many local authorities did not have facilities to recycle it. We listened to feedback; our recycled, recyclable plastic wrap was ending up in landfill and that was the last thing we had intended! We have continued to use up this film on our Fairtrade prepacks in order to avoid wastage. Both types of film will be finally phased out in 2018.

We learned from the above and carried out a two year long development project to redesign our prepack range, with ethical packaging at the fore. We have designed our entire prepack range of 297 products to use 20% less plastic packaging by switching to a thinner and stronger type of film. This new packaging will therefore save 6 tonnes of CO2 each year.
We are excited to announce that our prepack range relaunches in March 2018.

Suma bagged down bulk buy

There are two types of plastics that we use in our bagged down bulk buy products (1kg, 3kg and 5kg). The products with the highest volume of sales are machine-bagged using a laminate form film made of PET 12 microns and PE 40 microns (this is most but not all of our 1kg bags). 3-5 KG bags and lower volume sales lines are hand-packed, rather than machine-packed and wrapped in polythene.

We use these types of plastics because they have a strong ability to create a liquid and gas barrier so that oxygen cannot get in to spoil food. These plastics have properties of clarity, lightness, strength and toughness. These properties extend the shelf life of the products and need to meet expected standards for our retail customers.
We use a local company for our packing (within 30 miles of our warehouse) and continue to discuss with them the practicalities of the using thinner plastics and less plastics with the packing machinery they have. We have regular conversations with them about what new packaging is available and do our upmost to keep up to date with plastic innovations.

Suma paper products

We use 100% compostable wrap for our paper products. It is made from potato starch and totally biodegrades under the influence of soil based micro-organisms.

Our paper products (toilet rolls, paper tissues and kitchen towels) are made from 100% recycled fibres sourced exclusively in the UK. No chlorine is used in the manufacture.

The family sized packaging boxes for our Suma paper tissues are made with the environment in mind with a fully recycled and recyclable box.
• Paper products carry the Leaping Bunny and Vegan Society logos
• Biodegradeable and in fully recyclable packaging

Suma worker

Reduce, reuse, recycle

It is commonly agreed that the most effective way to deal with waste is firstly to reduce, secondly to reuse and thirdly to recycle.
Let’s look at what we are working on and what we have achieved in each of these categories:


Around our offices and warehouses the installation of water coolers means less use of single use plastic bottles. Single use water bottles are also now being refilled and reused.


Thank you to our customers who return the Suma cardboard boxes to us. We do reuse these boxes, as many times as we can.


We have an ongoing initiative to increase the amount of recycling we do on site.
We use shrink wrap to wrap our customers’ orders: this plastic is created from virgin materials. We use it on our customers’ pallets to secure and protect their goods in transit and products delivered in to our warehouse are wrapped in it. We collect used wrap and it is sent to a UK company, Plastic Expert.

The shrink wrap is processed and recycled into plastic pellets that can then be reused to create other plastics.

We sell a number of products, including our Ecoleaf cleaning range, in 5, 20 and 25 litre plastic drums. These single use plastic drums can be returned to us for recycling. We compact them and sell them on to UK companies for recycling in the UK.