The snail and the whale: A tale of plastic-free packaging in the games industry.
In a joint initiative, ABP and A4T Technology, the UK’s largest suppliers of gaming headsets, have been quietly spearheading a war on plastics. In 2017 they took the decision to remove all plastics from their retail packaging by the end of the following year. This meant a complete redesign of packaging across two huge product ranges; with the PlayStation-licensed 4Gamers and third-party STEALTH brands becoming the first of their kind in the games industry to be 100% plastic-free.
Sales Director, Paul Carrington, recalls how that decision came about:
In the first half of 2017 it quickly became apparent that the whole office was hooked on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II. Everyone loved it and it was a frequent topic of conversation — so all this was down to a ‘water-cooler moment’ I guess, or more like a bunch of them.
Our collective love for this programme definitely led to us genuinely beginning to consider how we could help. We knew there was a lot of plastic in our packaging, so the potential was there to make a difference. We had a multitude of things to consider: from stickers to cable ties, inner trays and hooks — and while each seemed like a small change, we soon realised they would amount to a significant reduction in landfill waste or worse still, ocean-bound plastics.
The company set its sights on producing plastic-free packaging by the end of 2018. After intensive research — thinking outside the plastic box — through numerous design and manufacturing partners, the initiative has produced hugely encouraging results. In 2019 ABP and A4T will ship over one million units; with the average weight of plastic per product being 60 grams, that equates to over 60 tonnes of plastic in one year alone.
Plastic-free initiatives were founded through our planet’s need for us to seek sustainable alternatives, but there was also a duty to the consumer and the gaming community; ideally, they wouldn’t notice any difference. ABP and A4T were always against the idea of passing costs, or compromise, on to customers. Besides economic considerations, the plastic-free solutions needed to be just as durable and hard-wearing as the previous plastic packaging. To this end, controlled tests were carried out to assess durability; some of these even involved dropping prototype packaging from the company’s second-storey office windows.
All products within ABP and A4T’s respective 4Gamers and STEALTH lines are now shipped in 100% plastic-free packaging — including fan favourites like 4Gamers’ PRO4-70 and its latest camouflage and rose gold colour SKUs, as well as STEALTH’s new era of XP gaming, casual and lifestyle headsets.
While Paul is proud of the huge progress made by the company, he believes there is much more work to do:
We’ve significantly reduced our use of plastics through a complete overhaul of our packaging processes and we’re delighted to be leading this initiative across the industry. Seeing how much this has changed our outlook as a company though, I do wonder just how big an impact we’d have — collectively as an industry — if others joined us in going plastic-free, sixty tonnes becoming six hundred tonnes, that’s the dream.”
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