Finding solutions to plastic pollution

12 August 2020

Single-use plastic pollution is one of the most important issues facing the world today. Learn how Boots is stepping forward to reduce its plastics footprint.

 

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without plastic.

It’s in the products we use to get ready each morning. It’s in the coffee-to-go cup we purchase during our hectic commute. It’s in the carrier bags we use to pick up our groceries at the end of a busy day. But how many of us stop to think about the impact our daily routine has on the planet?

Here at Boots UK, we’re committed to promoting a healthy planet. Learn about some of the steps we’re taking on our mission to become more sustainable. 

That’s a WRAP

From as early as the Victorian era, Boots has been committed to operating as a responsible business. In the 1880s, its perfumes, soaps and bath crystals were often packaged in reusable glass bottles, stoneware pots and metal tins to help reduce the need for new packaging.

Today this legacy remains the same. From 2017, Boots became one of the first pharmacy, health and beauty retailers to stop the manufacturing and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Additionally, the company signed the UK Plastics Pact led by WRAP, pledging to take action against problematic or unnecessary single-use plastics.

With a focus on our purpose-driven brands, Liz Earle launched its CICA Restore Skin Paste in September 2018, which is packaged in a fully recyclable aluminium tube and card carton, and Boots has an owned-brand range of biodegradable and plastic-free baby, face and hand wipes, which are set to remove at least 200 metrics tonnes of plastic per year1.

For eco-conscious shoppers looking to replace their bathroom products with sustainable alternatives, Boots owned-brand cotton buds have transitioned from plastic to rolled paper, and its affordable range of feminine hygiene products now uses 40 percent less plastic in the outer wrapping of its sanitary towels. Also designed to reduce the impact on the environment even further, its 97% plant-based applicator compact tampons avoid the use of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process.

 
Boots own-brand biodegradable wipes

 

Bottle it up

A recent survey by UK market research company, OnePoll, showed that 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are being used each year in the UK – a number Boots UK aims to reduce through the innovative “Rehydration Station” at its revolutionary Covent Garden, Sheffield Meadowhall and Bicester Shopping Park stores2. Customers can use the station to fill up their own water bottle, or pick up a “bottle for life” and refill it free of charge. Between June 2019 and July 2020, customers have helped save more than 34,000 plastic bottles at the Covent Garden store alone.

The Rehydration Station at our Covent Garden store 


But why stop at water?

Earlier this year, Boots became one of the first retailers to bring tights made from plastic bottles to the high street. Each pair of sustainable tights are made from around four plastic bottles, which are shredded into micro-particles, melted down and spun into yarn. The yarn is then knitted to produce comfortable and durable tights that stand the test of time and use no nylon - a fantastic example of green technology.

 

It’s in the bag

In 2019, Boots became the first national pharmacy, health and beauty retailer in the UK to replace its plastic bags with unbleached (brown) paper carrier bags as standard.

Now when customers visit the checkout, they’re greeted with a bag made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified recycled brown paper that’s printed with water-based ink. To make it even easier to recycle the bag when they get home, each bag also displays the on-pack recycling label.

Not only has this milestone helped remove more than 9003 metrics tons of plastic from Boots store operations in the first year, but £129,928.474 has been raised for Boots UK’s long-term charity partner, BBC Children in Need, from any profits of the brown paper bags.

Boots UK’s local pharmacies are also prescribing a more sustainable future. Patients can now receive their medicines in brown paper bags when they collect their prescriptions in-store, and as of March 2020, the more than 10 million Boots prescription bags sent from its Dispensing Support Pharmacy in Preston, England each year, are now made using 100 percent compostable material.

For those who prefer to shop online, Boots has also reduced the plastic packaging used in its Boots.com deliveries by 76 percent, which is expected to save 136 tonnes of plastic every year5. Boots aims to be 100 percent plastic-free in its online deliveries by the end of 2021, continuing to support its mission to become more sustainable.

Boots pharmacy brown paper bags 

 

Boots data taken from 12 August 2018 to 10 August 2019
2 Prior to social distancing regulations
3 Based on 2018 carrier bag usage  
4 For the year ending 6 April 2020
5 Based on 2018-2019 plastic packaging usage