​Please could you not put the cards in the plastic sleeves?

by Claire Senior

"Please could you not put the cards in the plastic sleeves?"

I received this request in the comments box of an order that came in last week. As far as requests go it’s a perfectly understandable one and I can completely see where this lovely customer is coming from. More than anyone, as a small business owner, I am all too aware of the masses of plastic packaging that our stock arrives in, that we accumulate every month. It galls me to see it all in a big pile in our office. It’s particularly annoying on a slightly different level that we get so much plastic packaging because our big cat, Dexter (pictured), is a bit weird and loves to eat plastic! I must therefore make sure it’s all immediately disposed of so that we can avoid yet another £80 vet trip, but I digress!

Plastic, especially single use plastic, is pretty much enemy number one right now. David Attenborough and the amazing Blue Planet series have opened our eyes to the horror that plastic has and continues to wreak on our environment. We can no longer stand by and pretend this isn’t happening.

From plastic straws, to coffee cups, the large companies are finally bowing to public pressure and time and effort is now being pushed into alternative, eco-friendly solutions.

But what of these greeting card plastic sleeves? Why are they needed at all? And what can we do to lessen our footprint on the planet?

To answer the first point, there are several very sound reasons why your card comes encased in a plastic sleeve. It prevents against dirt, stops the card getting wet, allows you, the customer, to see exactly what you’re buying, and it ensures that the card arrives with you in perfect condition. At The Curious Pancake some of our illustrators and designers use corn-starch biodegradable ‘plastic’ sleeves. These sleeves feel slightly different to the traditional ‘cello’ sleeve, and although their eco-credentials are high, they tend to be quite brittle and often do not have a very long shelf life. They are also more expensive to buy, and I think these two down sides are the reason that they’re not more widely used by the greeting card industry.

There is some good news, however.

Nearly all of the plastic sleeves that your greeting cards come in these days will be made from polypropylene, or PP for short. In the old days they used to be made from cellophane, and indeed we still call them “cello bags” on our website. Even when we buy them, this is how they’re described in the title. This is because cellophane, or “cello” has become synonymous with searching for greeting card plastic sleeves, in the same way that we mostly refer to sticky tape as Sellotape. However, when you look closely at the description of these sleeves, nearly all of them will reveal that they are made from polypropylene. The absolutely awesome news about this is that polypropylene is 100% recyclable. Meaning quite simply that you can dispose of this plastic sleeve in your plastics recycling bin at home.

That awesome news again: our polypropylene plastic sleeves are 100% recyclable and can go into your plastic recycling!

Whilst admittedly this is not the most ideal solution to a world with less plastic, I didn’t realise for years that these polypropylene sleeves were recyclable at all! If I only found out because of my close link with the greetings card industry and my frustration at all the plastic packaging, I figured that it was possible that many more people, including my lovely customers, might also not realise this.

In conclusion: you need not send your plastic greeting card sleeves to landfill (where it can take a depressing 20-30 years to fully decompose!) instead, please, please recycle this plastic, where it can be turned into mixing bowls, watering cans, shipping pallets and more!

I took the trouble of making stickers to go on our polypropylene sleeves that remind people that it is 100% recyclable, and don’t worry, the sticker is polypropylene too!

Hopefully in a few years’ time, we might have something new to replace the PP. We must keep the pressure on the big companies that can pioneer this new technology. As a small business owner, I am trying to do my part by spreading the word and stickering as many greeting card sleeves as I can!

If you didn’t know about the recyclable nature of polypropylene sleeves, please share your new-found knowledge or this article! Thank you!

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No cats were harmed in the making of this blog-post image!