Reducing our Environmental Impact

A Musto Case Study

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Musto Garment Packaging

In December 2016, Musto were challenged by Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race to reduce our environmental impact by finding a more sustainable alternative to the plastic packaging we use to package our garments. The project has resulted in a savings of more than 4,000 kg of plastic packaging across two product collections, and has paved the way for Musto to save over 11,000 kg of plastic each year.



Introduction

Over the 45 years the Volvo Ocean Race has been running the sailors have witnessed a steady increase in the amount of plastics floating around our oceans. The problem is very well illustrated by Bouwe Bekking, a six time Volvo Ocean Race veteran in his video Plastic, Plastic, Plastic…


Plastic, Plastic, Plastic...
Video

Plastic, Plastic, Plastic...

A message from the skipper Bouwe Bekking

We all need to get our act together in a sustainable way!

Watch the video



Vestas 11th Hour Racing has entered the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race to achieve exemplary results in sport and sustainability. Vestas are the world leaders in wind power and 11th Hour Racing is a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, establishing strategic partnerships within the sailing and marine communities to promote collaborative systemic change for the health of our marine environment.

Over a period of 6 months, we conducted a study into the feasibility of the plastic packaging challenge and how we could make a significant change within our business to reduce our environmental impact.

We took advice from Jill Savery at 11th Hour Racing, Anne-Cecile Turner at Volvo Ocean Race and Dame Ellen MacArthur of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as well as a number of our packaging suppliers.

The Case Study

1. Life Without Plastic

Musto make premium garments. It is critical that they are well protected throughout the supply chain. Failure to do so results in damaged garments that cannot be sold on. The result of this is a significant environmental and commercial impact due to the energy, water, materials, labour and cost that go into making them.

We started the study by looking at why we used plastic packaging. When a garment comes off of the production line, it needs to be wrapped in something to ensure it reaches the consumer in perfect condition. This means protection from dirt and moisture.

Many of our production facilities are in East Asia. The first challenge is to transport garments to a port, load them onto a ship and deliver them to our Distribution Centre(DC). Whilst our production facilities may be clean and air-conditioned, the outside environment is not, and is often extremely humid, wet and dusty.

On arrival at our DC the garments sit on the shelves until ordered by a customer. Whilst the DC is clean, there is inevitably dust present and the handling systems are maintained with grease and oil.

We can’t control the cleanliness of our 3rd party transport companies and their trucks, and for those garments we ship overseas they must once again get on a ship or a plane.

The great benefit of plastic is that it not only protects garments against dirt, it is also protects against moisture as well. Plastic film is non-absorbent and will not hold moisture, therefore it prevents issues like mold and mildew on garments in humid environments.

Our conclusion is that we need to continue to use plastic for our garment bags – so the question becomes how do we minimize the amount of plastic we use?

2. Bioplastics - A Viable Alternative?

Bioplastics are made from corn starch rather than being oil based. As a result they are compostable. When we started to look into them we got very excited about a rapidly biodegradable plastic that our customers could compost at home.

Unfortunately, the further we looked into it, reading the small print rather than looking at the headlines, it became apparent that when making thin plastic bags the manufacturers all added approximately 20% regular plastic to act as a binding agent in order to give bioplastic bags the strength required.

The bioplastic bags can still be composted, but not at home. They need to go to an industrial composting facility, of which there are very few.

The result is a bag that our customers were very unlikely to be able to compost and which cannot be recycled. In other words, these bags will most likely end up in the landfill.

3. Can We Use Recycled Plastics For our Bags?

To investigate this subject we enlisted the help of our suppliers. They have the specialist knowledge in the bag manufacturing process that we lacked internally. We also checked what they were telling us with a number of sustainability experts.

The use of post-consumer waste when making very thin gauge plastic is very difficult, to the point where our suppliers couldn’t do it. As a result this idea had to be dropped.

However, pre-consumer waste was a possibility. This is mostly generated within the bag manufacturing plant – the trimmings from the cutting and all the pieces stamped out to form things like the handles on a carrier bag. These usually go to waste but our suppliers agreed to use them in the manufacture of our garment bags.

Another challenge is that when using the pre-consumer waste you cannot make a transparent bag. They are naturally translucent and vary in colour depending on the colour of the waste material that goes into them.

The solution was to dye the plastic a solid colour and accept the fact that we would not be able to use a clear bag. The dye will not inhibit recyclability of the bag, and it is non-toxic and solvent based.

This again bought new challenges. If the bag isn’t clear you can’t scan the bar code on the garments swing ticket through the bag. This means using external labels on the bags which themselves have to be made of recyclable plastic if the bag isn’t going to be contaminated for further recycling. The glue used to put these stickers onto the bags must also be recyclable.

In the end we got there. A recyclable material that used 30% recycled content in its make up. We hope to be able to increase this recycled content percentage in the future and will continue to investigate options.

4. Minimising Our Plastic Usage

Our focus then turned to how to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our packaging. Our challenge was to halve the weight of plastic we purchased.

We looked at two aspects to the amount of plastic we used for our packaging: 1) how thin we could make our bags whilst still maintaining the strength and integrity required to keep garments clean and dry; and 2) how small could we make our bags.

The standard thin film plastic garment bag we use is 60 microns thick (0.06mm). In 2016 we ran a trial on our packaging for the Volvo Ocean Race Collection, reducing the thickness to 40 microns. We had enough evidence to prove that 40 microns was sufficient to protect our products so we ran some trials with a 30 micron bag.

Those trials were successful, but we felt that 30 microns was as thin as we could practically achieve. Even at this weight, we became limited to single colour printing due to the registration issues on multi colour prints.

We have experimented extensively with different methods of folding our garments to reduce the amount of plastic needed for packaging. Our policy previously was to put as few folds into a garment as possible, reducing any creasing caused by compression during storage and transport.

The result has been one additional fold in each garment and has resulted in an average 40% reduction in bag size.

The sum of these two initiatives has been to reduce the weight of plastic we use by 70% - a 50% reduction in the thickness of plastic used and a 40% reduction in bag size.

5. What Else Can We Do?

Messaging

Our minds then turned to the consumer. How will they know what they should do with the plastic bag? What should they do if they don’t have local recycling facilities?

To solve the first question we decided to use the print on the outside of the bag to explain to them what we have done to reduce our environmental impact, and to explain to them what action we want them to take in order to reduce their own impact. The text printed on the outside of the bag now reads:

A Bag With A Concience
70% Lighter
30% Recycled

Musto is committed to protecting our environment and reducing the impact of the materials we use in our packaging

We use plastic packaging to ensure your product is properly protected during shipping. We would prefer not to, but until there is a viable alternative our policy is to minimize the impact of the plastics we use.

This bag has been made 40% smaller and 50% thinner, resulting in a bag which uses 70% less plastic. It also contains 30% recycled content in the material to reduce its environmental impact even further.

Please recycle this bag through a proper local recycling facility. If you don’t have that facility please return to Musto at the address on the website and we will ensure it is recycled responsibly.

www.musto.com

To enable those consumers who do not have local recycling facilities to ensure their bag gets recycled responsibly, we have also set up a return facility, enabling consumers to return their packaging to Musto. We will then ensure it is recycled responsibly.

Carrier Bags

During the last Volvo Ocean Race, we gave consumers who purchased merchandise in store a carrier bag to carry their garments in if they wanted one.

This again was a significant use of plastic bags. Our carrier bags were of excellent quality, a much heavier gauge plastic than our garment bags. They were bright red in colour, carried both Musto and Volvo Ocean Race branding and were an excellent advert for the store when consumers carried them around the race village.

However, throughout the race we gave away 35,000 of these plastic carrier bags across two sizes, with a total usage of 2,090 kg of plastic. This is another area we wanted to focus on to make a significant difference in our environmental impact.

The materials challenge once again came into play. The advantage of plastic is that it does not absorb any moisture, and if it gets damp it dries out with no ill effects. Plastic bags are also made from a thin gauge plastic which is light and takes up very little volume.

All three of the above factors become important when carrying our stock of carrier bags around the world. The space we have within our shipping containers is limited. The alternative paper based bags take up significantly more volume as they need to be much thicker and heavier to achieve the same strength. They also suffer badly from dampness in the environment, which is difficult to avoid when shipping around the world in a 40-foot container.

The alternative we settled on is a “Bag for Life” made from 100% recycled materials that is itself recyclable. 80% of the material content is post-consumer waste, the remaining 20% is pre-consumer waste.

We will institute a nominal fee to the consumer for carrier bags in return for a good quality multi use bag. We also get the opportunity to make a donation to a sustainability charity for each bag sold.

This initiative has effectively doubled our reduction of single use plastics.

6. The result

The final result of the project has been a reduction in the weight of plastic we use in our garment packaging of 70%, a further 30% of which is recycled content. Almost an 80% reduction in our use of virgin plastics.

In addition we have reduced our use of single use plastic in our carrier bags to zero (they are made from recycled plastic and are designed for multiple use), a further saving of more than 2,000 kg.

As important, we are raising the awareness of the environmental impact of plastic usage and promoting recycling by printing the message we have on the outside of our garment bags.

The project so far has been focused on our Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Volvo Ocean Race collections. In total across these product ranges we have saved more than 4,000 kg of single use plastic packaging.

7. The Future

The next phase of the project is to roll the new bags out to the whole Musto product range. We plan to do this in 2018 as it is the earliest we can realistically make the switch.

We estimate that this roll out will save a further 11,000 kg of plastic each year.

However, it will not end there. Long term we would rather not be using plastics at all. We have appointed an internal Sustainability Officer who will be continually watching everything we do, keeping us honest, and through keeping close to the packaging industry trying to find that new material that will enable us to get out of plastics altogether.

About Musto

As the world's leading sailing brand, Musto continually push the boundaries of design and innovation. They create technical performance clothing that provides athletes across multiple disciplines with ocean engineered protection for all weather conditions, protecting them on the outside, making them stronger on the inside to give them the inside edge.

Founded in 1964 the company takes pride in its history of continuous and market leading innovation. By combining technical fabrication with design, Musto ensures that athletes continuously perform at their peak, no matter their environment.

Royal Warrants

Musto’s position of technical excellence is supported two Royal Warrants of Appointment, as official suppliers of outdoor clothing to both Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Musto was granted the Royal Warrants on January 1st 2008, having supplied goods to the Royal Household for over five years.

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is sailing’s toughest race to win and the ultimate test of a team in professional sport. Since 1973, the race around the world has been an obsession for some of the greatest ever sailors, and more than four decades on it continues to sit at the intersection of top level sport and human adventure. The 2017-18 edition starts 22 October 2017 from Alicante, Spain and will take the teams 45,000 nautical continents and 12 landmark Host Cities, and finishing at the end of June 2018 in The Hague.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing

Led by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, Vestas and 11th Hour Racing join forces to compete in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race with one simple mission: Achieve exemplary results in sport and be the most sustainable team in the race. This is our opportunity to win the most epic sprint around our fragile planet, whilst showcasing business as a force for good.

As experienced organisations and individuals, we understand the need to set a precedent whereby helping our partners and fans, accomplish their sustainable goals.

We advocate for effective solutions for a clean atmosphere and marine habitat, harnessing the power of nature for a cleaner tomorrow, and using unparalleled knowledge to empower collaborative, systematic change for our environment. Let’s lead sustainability, together.