Introducing our Leave No Trace packaging; water soluble, recyclable, biodegradable and breaking down harmlessly into non-toxic biomass in soil and sea, should it escape into the environment.
In use since October 2019, these bags were in development for almost a year and we proudly led the way as the first in our industry to use this ground-breaking technology; eliminating the final piece of single-use, non-degradable plastic from our packaging.
Since day one, we’ve taken a pioneering approach to making better and more sustainable choices; challenging, innovating and seeking alternatives to what has gone before. We’re constantly striving to find better materials and practices to reduce our footprint, not just in our products but throughout the business; from production lines to our packaging.
Each year, it’s estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans. It’s an ever increasing problem and it’s why we believe that single use is no use. In 2018 we made a commitment to eradicate single use, non-degradable plastic at Finisterre and we are proud to take that commitment to the next level by partnering with Aquapak.
Addressing our plastic problem
Aquapak’s mission has been to develop a plastic technology which functions throughout its life as a modern packaging solution; not only fit for purpose while in use but 100% water soluble, recyclable, compostable and biodegradable – eliminating the problems that plastic usually causes when we attempt to dispose of it.
In an ideal world this packaging would not be necessary, but it is. It’s essential to keep products protected on their journey from factory, to warehouse, all the way to your home and our stores. We decided that if we had to use a plastic bag, we wanted to find the best possible solution, that would cause as little environmental impact as possible.
How Aquapak Packaging Works
Our Leave No Trace bags are made from a specially formulated polymer resin using Polyvinylalcohol (PVOH). PVOH is still a polymer, but the major differentiator from traditional plastics is that the material is hydrophilic (i.e. it loves water). This means it breaks down quickly in the marine environment without attracting other toxins or forming microplastics, as traditional polymers would.
It has been thoroughly tested and found to be non-toxic to marine species, breaking down into water, carbon dioxide and ‘mineralised biomass’; a natural biological breakdown step of the carbon in the material into carbon dioxide and water.
As the material degrades, smaller oxidised polymer chains are formed that eventually break down to carbon dioxide and water. The material does not form toxic microplastics or yield any harmful products at any stage of the breakdown and biodegradation process. The ink used is also non-toxic and food-safe, so there are no nasty chemicals produced as the bag breaks down.
Leave No Trace Bag Disposal
If you’re wondering how to safely dispose of your Leave No Trace bag, all you’ll need is a kettle and your sink. The material breaks down quickly and harmlessly in water temperatures above 70ºC. Should your bag end up in landfill, it will biodegrade naturally and Leave No Trace.
Words by Zak Rayment | Image by Abbi Hughes
Finisterre x Aquapak FAQs
If you've made it this far, we salute you. It means you're genuinely interested in this solution, and we believe the more people take this up, the better.
Below we've prepared some FAQs, for those amongst you who really like getting into the nitty-gritty. Enjoy!
What is a Polymer?
A polymer is a large molecule, made from connecting many small molecules called monomers. Polymers are very common and can be naturally occurring, like starch, cellulose, rubber and protein - or can be man-made, like plastic and some fibres.
What is a hydrophilic polymer?
A hydrophilic polymer is attracted to water and in the right conditions (temperature, agitation etc.) will be dissolved in water. This property is important in enhancing biodegradation and other properties such as compatibility with other materials such as cellulose.
What are your Leave No Trace bags made from?
We’ve partnered with Aquapak, whose Hydropol range is based on specialty hydrophilic (water-liking) polyvinyl alcohol.
What is polyvinyl alcohol?
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) is a water-soluble polymer, sold in both fully and partially hydrolyzed forms. Its technical properties vary depending on molecular weight (degree of polymerization) and fraction of acetate groups that are removed (degree of hydrolysis).
Does Hydropol form microplastics?
Microplastics are simply small pieces of plastic, defined in 2009 as “plastic particles smaller than 5mm in size”.
Depending on the environment, Hydropol in solid form may break down to small particles but without the formation of toxins or the subsequent absorption of toxins associated with traditional plastics. These small particles will not persist in the environment unlike conventional plastics whose long lasting hydrophobic micro-particles absorb and concentrate toxins. When in solution Hydropol cannot form microplastics.
Can your Leave No Trace bags be recycled?
The material can be readily identified by sorting methods such as infra-red and laser sorting and can therefore be separated and reprocessed. In less sophisticated waste handling facilities, the use of a hot water wash enables Hydropol to be taken into solution. Once in solution the polymer can either be recovered or the solution allowed to go to normal waste water treatment or anaerobic digestion.
Are the Leave No Trace bags biodegradable?
By its nature Aquapak’s base polymers are inherently biodegradable and there is a large amount of historical work undertaken by academic and other researchers in this area detailing the microorganisms which breakdown the polymer in various conditions.
The Hydropol polymer biodegrades to carbon dioxide, water and mineralised biomass. What is mineralised biomass?
In this case of polymer degradation, the term mineralisation indicates a natural biological breakdown step of the carbon in the polymer to carbon dioxide and water. So, via a process of oxidation the polymer breaks down via chain breaking to form smaller oxidised polymer chains (mineralised biomass) which then break down further to carbon dioxide and water. Hydropol does not yield any harmful products in any stage of breakdown and biodegradation.
Are your Leave No Trace bags safe in waste water treatment systems?
The base polymer has been used for many years in applications where the disposal route is through the waste water system and there are no reported problems, and this has been confirmed by a historical literature review as well as work conducted at two UK Universities on Hydropol film.
Are these plastic bags safe in the sea?
Aquapak and Finisterre are very much aware of the ocean plastics problem and are in touch with several organisations looking at this problem. Work has already been undertaken with a UK University in toxicology testing using standardised marine fauna and no deleterious effects were found.
If a turtle eats a Leave No Trace bag, what happens?
The work undertaken so far by independent laboratories including the OK Marine certification scheme indicates that Hydropol is non-toxic to marine species which would include turtles. The mechanism of breakdown would also decrease the possibility of the turtle accumulating levels which would be harmful unlike most conventional plastics.
What do you mean by a plastic for the Circular Economy?
The drive towards a Circular Economy means the development of a sustainable materials chain which has all the advantages of modern highly functional materials in their primary and secondary uses but combines it with real end of life options.