Industry shift in preferred packaging materials!

by | 1 December 2021 | Mailing, Paper, Print

The industry shift in wrapping materials and effects on the environment.

Westcolour Ltd are the UK’s leading supplier of subscription magazine fulfilment, posting over 10 million items a month over our two productions sites. Sadly, many industry sectors have suffered because of the worldwide pandemic, but in the most part we have seen consistency in demand for peoples much loved weekly and monthly magazines, in fact some substantial rises in certain magazine sectors such as lifestyle and hobbies & interests. Direct mail has been steady throughout, with statistics proving that it is still an extremely engaging and lucrative marketing channel…. but…. inevitably, all packaging and most direct mail ends up getting disposed of in some method and our focus has been around providing sustainable wrapping options for our customers using responsibly sourced materials, fit for purpose and with universal awareness and assurance around recycling these material.

I have spent significant amounts of my time discussing with customer the eco pros and cons of our packaging methods, the environment effects around creation and disposal of each material. Subscribers and publishers have demanded improvements in this area, all looking to reduce carbon footprint and single use plastics and we have been motivated and invested in providing these.

We have intentionally set up Westcolour with very capable machinery at each site that not only offers wrapping facilities for all methods in the industry but at high volume output. With a large list of weekly and monthly title, some at very high run lengths this was essential.

What has been most refreshing over the last few years, is seeing the responsibility taken by all subscribers, publishers, and companies like ourselves in putting the environment first, above cost, and trying to ensure we have the most sustainable methods and materials in use, so recycling is effortlessly and always possible.

Where once plastic films were the ‘norm’ all customers have recognised the confusion and inconsistency around recycling this material. Being dependent on your local councils’ particular rules and methods of handling different types of plastics, supermarkets accepting some but not all types – it ultimately results in more plastic ending up in landfill than necessary.

Even when this plastic is successfully sent for recycling, many reports claim that only a very small proportion is successfully recycled. The rest is burnt or sent to landfill creating a huge environmental issue.

Where large amounts of mail were still being sent using plastic polywrap, consumers were reporting they would rather not receive the mail piece, resulting in a continual loss of valuable customers.

Plastic film use in the mailing industry has been declining ever since, without confidence in the recycling supply chains ability to handle it and the likelihood being it will always be more damaging to the environment, a continual decline seems inevitable with any customer left using plastic, strongly considering new approaches.

This takes us nicely onto starch based compostable films, potato based usually. Widely used and is a great alternative to LDPE plastic film. You can print minimal coverage marketing or postal information on the film and if the ink used is water or vegetable based the film is 100% recyclable.

That said…

The recyclability is only achievable if you have the home compostable heap or bins to dispose in. It takes around a year for a single pack to compost down by 90%. So, if you receive mail in this form regularly you can quickly fill up your compost bin but more importantly the millions who do not have this facility will likely add the film to general or plastic kerbside waste resulting in similar local council processing issues  as plastic and being at landfill sites, again being bad for the environment and more worrying is that this film if added to general recycling it can contaminate and cause larger batches of recycling to be then unrecyclable.

If everyone had suitable methods to recycle this material it would be a big step forward from the standard plastic films but unfortunately it still falls short and should maybe be avoided.

Widely recognised as the best eco-friendly solution is paper wrapping. Westcolour’s papers is all carbon balanced, certified by the World Land Trust and always PEFC or FSC grade. Our specifically chosen papers rigorously researched and developed to give best moisture, burst, and tear resistance, we have seen successful transition of millions of products to paper. We have excellent offerings for light and heavier weight products, successfully posting packs up to a kilo in weight with excellent results.

Being paper it allows excellent use of the latest postal barcoding services, offering huge saving on your postage bills. The material is excellently marketable, producing beautiful full colour products that are instantly inviting and engaging when the land through the mailbox. The success of this material really lies in its universally recognised recyclability, well established and available methods of handling they paper allows completely hassle-free assurance the customers efforts to provide a sustainably sourced and recyclable product has been achieved.


Westcolour have excellent resources and machinery to provide a completely managed campaign with an experienced team that will guide customers through every part of the process.


Andrew Bowden

Westcolour Director

16th July 2021