Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Do you use eco-friendly packaging for transporting / shipping your art?

Have you thought about how sustainable the packaging is that you use for packing your artwork for transporting to exhibitions or shipping to clients?

Have you heard about the Plastic Packaging Tax - which will start being levied in the UK as from April 2022 - with the aim of reducing the use of single use plastic?

This post looks at:
  • the background to the drive for more sustainable packaging
  • the Plastic Packaging Tax
  • what is packaging - from the perspective of a self-employed small business owner
  • your obligations on under the waste duty of care rules?
  • how to review your use of sustainable green eco-friendly packaging for your artwork
  • PLUS CHECKLIST of questions to ask when thinking how to be more friendly to the planet - and marketing your art!


Very many people are concerned about:

  • the impact of climate change
  • the extent to which single use plastic packaging is becoming a curse for the planet and its oceans 

In March 2018, the government launched a call for evidence on using the tax system or charges to tackle single-use plastic waste. This received a record 162,000 responses, highlighting the strong public interest in action in this area.

Using new plastic typically has greater environmental impact: it requires unnecessary resource extraction and processing, with higher energy use and emissions than using recycled material. It also results in significant amounts of additional plastic waste on the market, which is generally sent to landfill or incinerated. 

Plastic Packaging Tax | HM Treasury Overview

Many people who buy products are very concerned that packaging should reflect their values and avoid the destruction of the environment. 

These include people who buy art.

What is the Plastic Packaging Tax and who will be impacted?

The UK government wants to promote 

a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the production of plastic packaging, which will create greater demand for this material and in turn stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.

To do this it's introducing a Plastic Packaging Tax as from April 2022

Those affected by this tax will be:

  • UK producers of plastic packaging,
  • importers of plastic packaging,
  • business customers of producers and importers of plastic packaging, and
  • consumers who buy goods in plastic packaging in the UK.
Bottom line - if you are currently using plastic materials for your packaging, you will probably find it increases in cost next year.

Now is the time to get your packaging standards reviewed and revised!

What is packaging?

Just in case you think this is nothing to do with you as an artist.....
‘Packaging’ is any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. This includes packaging for raw materials right through to finished goods to be sold or being sold. For example, pallets, boxes, bags, tape for wrapping, rolls, tubes and clothes hangers sold as part of the clothing item.
GOV UK Guidance - Packaging waste: producer responsibilities

So unless you place your framed artwork in the hands of your buyer yourself - with no packaging -  you are a packaging producer!

Also, did you know that your art business (in the UK) MUST follow the waste duty of care rules?
Your responsibilities
You must:
You have extra responsibilities if you’re dealing with hazardous waste.

Dispose of business or commercial waste | GOV UK

Review your use of sustainable green eco-friendly packaging

Finstown Post Office in Orkney first alerted me to
the NEW Ecowrapping substitutes for ordinary bubble wrap

One of the really useful exercises artists can do during lockdown / restrictions on normal activities is to review their use of the packaging they use for:

  • transporting artwork to/from art exhibitions / art competitions
  • shipping artwork to clients
AND check whether or not it is sustainable / eco-friendly / green.


Here's a checklist of questions for such a review

1.  Current products

  • What do you use for packaging?
  • Have you checked its eco-credentials? Is it:
    • made from recycled materials?
    • capable of being recycled?
    • compostable?
    • re-usable?
    • labelled green / eco-friendly?
    • OKish? i.e. going in the right direction but could be better
    • likely to be subject to the plastic packaging tax?
    • needs to be replaced? (eg plastic and anything which cannot be recycled)
  • Is your packaging minimised - compatible with the need for it to arrive safe and in one piece?

2.  Stock Levels & Replacement

  • How much stock of packaging materials do you have? (which needs to be used up before you place another order)?
  • When will you next be placing an order?
    • What's the lead-in time for securing replacement packaging?
    • What's the optimum reorder level for replacement packaging?

3.  Substitute & Replacement Packaging Materials

  • Do you have standards / criteria for your packaging materials which you'd be very happy to share with your customers eg. 
    • recyclable
    • re-usable
    • compostable
    • minimised
  • How can you reduce:
    • your current level of unsustainable waste?
    • carbon footprint?
    • the amount of packaging used to transport your art? (both total packaging and unsustainable materials)
  • How can you increase:
    • the amount of renewables you use
    • recycling of packaging materials
    • compostable packaging materials
  • Are you aware of substitutes / replacements which conform to sustainable packaging standards? eg paper bubble wrap instead of plastic)
    • Have you tried substitutes?
    • Have you tried replacements - or know anybody who has and what their experience was?
  • Sources and Suppliers
    • Have you identified those who supply eco-friendly packaging suitable for artwork?
    • Have you reviewed their practices and product range?
    • Have you selected preferred future suppliers?
    • Have you checked out current delivery times?

4.  Art Group Discounts

  • Has your local art group checked out the scope for discounts through bulk ordering?

5.  Marketing your eco-standards to your art collectors

  • Do you make a point of advising your customers of the care and attention you place on making sure that all packaging materials are sustainable and eco-friendly.
    • If not - maybe you should?

I'm happy to have suggestions for other questions to add to this checklist. This is how to contact me

Sustainable Packaging

I've already started including examples of sustainable and eco-friendly packaging on my web page about Packing Materials for Shipping Art on my Art Business Info for Artists website.

Look out for the headlines and text in green!


These provide guidance on some of the things you might want to investigate further.

Government View / Guidance / Regulation

Guidance from other bodies

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