I spend so much time explaining to people why we think Packshare is a no-brainer solution for small businesses that sometimes I even bore myself. I have had to apologise to my family and friends over and over for telling them the same information again and again.
Louisa and I talk about it all of the time but I realised that we haven’t actually written it down anywhere public. So as well as being a place to lay down our manifesto, this is a page that I can direct people to when I get a little too boringly passionate about Packshare.
Packshare helps you find local businesses to reuse your mailorder packaging. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for small businesses, and it’s good for our communities.
We started Packshare because Louisa used to work for a great shop called Willow and Stone in Falmouth, Cornwall. They sell iron mongery and other beautiful homewares, they’re independent, and they’re one of the shops that help to give Falmouth it’s unique character. They also have a great website, and they make a lot of their sales online.
Louisa spent a lot of time packing delicate, beautiful, awkwardly shaped things to make sure they would survive the journey through the postal service to their new owners. Willow and Stone get through a lot of packaging, and - because they’re awesome - they’ve always reused as much packaging as they can. They get plenty of well-wrapped deliveries, and all of the bubble wrap and cardboard that they come wrapped in can easily be reused to wrap up out-going deliveries.
Over time Louisa got into the habit of taking any personal packaging into work. Because she knew how useful it was to have different sized boxes, or a few extra packing peanuts, it made her working day easier. Before long all of the staff at Willow and Stone were doing the same.
So why do we need Packshare?
The problems are twofold:
Not every business has the capacity or business model to reuse all of the packaging it receives, or receives as much as it needs.
Many shops don’t sell online, or pack outgoing items, so all of the packaging their stock arrives in gets dumped out on the curb for recycling or refuse. All of that packaging gets thrown away because that one business can’t reuse it. You can tell these businesses by walking down your high street in the morning and seeing who’s putting out heaps of cardboard boxes, or bin liners full of bubble wrap.
I’m not judging those businesses, that’s the world we live in, and up until now there hasn’t been a better alternative. But the insanity of it is that there are often businesses on the same street who are buying in exactly the same packaging.
Most people don’t know a business they can take their old packaging to.
Because Louisa worked for Willow and Stone she knew exactly what was useful and what wasn’t. No business wants the wrong packaging, but most people in Falmouth probably don’t know the ins and outs of what happens in the Willow and Stone packaging room.
So how are we supposed to know if the packaging that we have would be useful to a business?
Those are the problems that Packshare solves.
If you run a business that buys in packaging, all you need to do is create a profile at www.packshare.org and tell us what packaging you can reuse. You buy bubble wrap? Tick the box that says bubble wrap. That’s all you have to do.
Now when the business next door to you gets a delivery, or the eco-conscious guy who lives upstairs buys some shoes off e-bay, they can search Packshare by their postcode and the type of packaging that they have. Your business will pop up saying that you can use bubble wrap, and they can bring it to you.
The business next door saves money having to have it taken away, and they don’t have it sitting around waiting for collection. They can just walk it around to you. The guy upstairs doesn’t need to fill up his kitchen bin, or stuff it in with his plastic bottles assuming it’ll be recycled.
Everybody gets a warm fuzzy feeling of doing good for the environment, supporting a small local business, and from having the positive social interaction of giving something useful to someone who can use it.
Everybody wins. It’s a no-brainer.
Now imagine that happening in your town. Better still, imagine it happening in every town around the UK. Our towns are full of small businesses buying in packaging and other businesses paying to have the same packaging taken away.
If those businesses could work together we could vastly reduce the amount of packaging being created, recycled and incinerated. Councils would reduce the amount of recycling they needed to handle.
Small businesses, who give our towns their unique characters, could save money buying in packaging and having it taken away. This would make them more competitive and resilient, and more likely to survive against the tide of chain stores and big businesses.
It also means that local businesses can get some benefit from the huge consumer swing towards buying online.
It puts a little human interaction and community engagement into buying online. It means that you - the consumer - can buy a pair of shoes online and still contribute towards your local economy.
It empowers us all to do something small for our environment, our local businesses, and our communities.
Our long term aims
I’ve facetiously said that we want to be bigger than Twitter in 5 years, and I know it sounds crazy but it contains a little bit of truth. I don’t see any reason that packsharing packaging shouldn't become the norm extremely quickly, particularly with renewed focus on our current climate emergency, and a surge of people actively searching for better ways to live more sustainably.
The truth is we want every small business in the UK to sign up to Packshare.
We want every shop, every restaurant, every ebayer, every artist, craftsperson and market seller.
All it takes is for businesses to sign up and tell people what they can reuse.
So sign up now at www.packshare.org
Or join our mailing list at https://tinyurl.com/PackshareMailingList
Or follow us on social media at: www.twitter.com/packshare