Grafenia switches to 'eco-friendly' laminate film

By Rhys Handley, Wednesday 15 August 2018

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Grafenia has switched to what it says is a more environmentally friendly laminate for all its products as it looks to further bolster its green credentials.

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Gunning: "We all want to be responsible within the communities where we operate"

Oxo-biodegradable laminate is a polypropylene-based plastic produced with a salt additive that catalyses the initiation of the composting process once it has been discarded. The material, supplied to Grafenia by an undisclosed vendor, has been used as standard on all the company's laminated products since 1 August.

The Manchester-headquartered PLC announced the move at its AGM at the end of July and was the result of an in-depth consultation with its various partner businesses and its shareholders and clients.

“We have been feeling the Attenborough effect of late and looking across the business to find where we can reduce our usage of harmful resources,” said chief executive Peter Gunning. “When we took the idea for eco-friendly laminate to consultation, the vote came out above 90% in favour in June, which gave us time to prepare for an August launch.

“I am pleased we have been able to make this step. There was a concern that telling clients about the negative conversations surrounding print might deter them from buying as much, but it has been very well received by our customers so far.

“Decisions like these are not always about price, I think this is what our partners want for many reasons. We all want to be responsible within the communities where we operate, whether that’s financially or environmentally.” 

All standard plastic laminate has now been replaced by Oxo-biodegradable in Grafenia’s multiple offerings, including matt-laminated business cards, folders, booklets, flyers and menus.

Grafenia will continue to run all lamination jobs at its Manchester base on a Paperplast laminator, with prices for lamination rising by around 2%, according to Gunning, following an initial discount period across the first month.

Despite wide usage in the Middle East and Africa, Oxo-biodegradeable plastics have not been been broadly adopted in Europe due to concerns around the length of time it takes them to degrade fears that when does it could result in microplastics being distributed into the environment.

Gunning described the reticence as “one side of the argument” and said Oxo-biodegradable plastics, while still not as ideal as recyclable materials, were a step up from conventional single-use plastics that do not break down.

He highlighted that environmental initiatives have long characterised Grafenia’s approach to print fulfilment, including the use of recycled brown packing material over plastic bubblewrap, as well as vegetable-based inks and unbleached carton.

Separately, the PLC has expanded its employee shares scheme, which launched in January 2017, in order to permit staff working at Grafenia's newest acquisitions to take part.

A total of 52 employees elected to participate in the scheme and a grant of 1,505,719 options over ordinary shares was made on 14 August – 1.96% of the current total voting rights in the company. With previous grants under the scheme, the total number of shares now under option is 5,674,730 (7.39% of total voting rights).

“We thought that the best way to encourage our teams to think like owners of the business, was to actually help them become owners,” said Gunning. “We decided to open the scheme again this year so that new members could join too. We are delighted so many did.

Going forward, the PLC continues to focus on the expansion of its Nettl brand, most recently with the acquisition of AG Signs in order to roll it into a new superstore in Exeter. Last month, shareholders gathered at the Nettl superstore in Liverpool to see the benefits of the business model first hand.

In its results announced in June, Grafenia reported a £4m rise in turnover to £14.63m, though operating loses also rose to £1.1m. At the time, Gunning said that growth of the Nettl brand would pay off once it completes the initial stages and secured a further £3.5m in shareholder funding in April to help facilitate this initiative.

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