Materials World March 2018

With the CEO of the Institute, Dr Bernie Rickinson, stepping into 2018 stating that, ‘We stand ready to be a catalyst for the debate on plastics, reuse, recycling and redesign,’ and the Institute already having decided not to replace the single-use plastic cups for the water fountains within the London office, I scanned our magazine production process, looking for unsustainable ways of work to improve. 

Invisible to us, as we receive a bulk delivery in cardboard boxes, our magazine comes in plastic wrappers to your house. Surely, this is something we could change, I thought, and got in touch with the mailing house. 

It turned out, I wasn’t the only one who had approached them with a query of how to reduce the environmental footprint in publishing. They had looked into different wrapping options and so I was presented with their findings: Currently, our magazine is sent out wrapped in a film containing an additive that causes it to break down in the presence of light and oxygen. This helps to reduce littering but, unfortunately, this film cannot be recycled due to the additive. There are other fully biodegradable films that break down in landfill, but also can’t be recycled. Then, there are two plastic-free options – a compostable film made of starch from potatoes that costs around £50 per 1000 items compared with £8.50 for conventional polythene – which the mailing house trialled, but they degraded in their warehouse – and expensive, but less resilient, paper envelopes. While these are environmentally friendly, enclosing the magazines in envelopes would take up to two days longer, therefore delaying the entire mailing process.

Confronted with the mailing house’s findings, I went and did some research into plastic packaging in the UK myself. 

Ines Nastali, Editor


News this issue:

Second lease of life

Bury it

The universal way

Predict the future

A new story for Sub-Saharan glass

New printing technique for strong materials

Great efficiency with folding wings

The artisanal way of mining

USA updates critical minerals list

The price of seabed mining

Satellite search for Cornish lithium

Features this issue:

Spotlight: Testing and inspection

Taking research to industry

Q&A – Abbie Hutty

Material Marvels: The Golden Gateway