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The plastic party syndrome

Matilda Lee

27th November, 2007

Frustrated by the disposable hangovers from her kids’ parties, Hina Patel made it her business to make goodie bags green

Children’s parties – many of us have spent countless hours attending them, not to mention throwing them. Accompanying my two daughters (now aged five and nine) on the party circuit, I began to notice what I now call the ‘plastic party syndrome’. Everything from the cups and plates (even those made from paper often have a plastic lamination), cutlery, tablecloths, hats, party poppers, decorations, food packaging, gifts and not forgetting the party bags and their contents is made from plastic.

This plastic will almost certainly end up in the bin and if you think about how many parties must take place, you can imagine the environmental impact.

I trained as a dentist and worked for 12 years before becoming a full-time mum after the birth of my second child five years ago. In December last year, after years of increasing frustration at not being able to find eco-friendly choices for my children’s parties that were affordable, and talking to many parents who felt the same, I decided finally to take the bull by the horns and start my own company supplying an eco-friendly range of party goods, from party bags and goodies to tableware, cards, gift bags and gifts that are unique, stylish and affordable.

I started by looking into the type of products and where to get them. I knew what materials I wanted to use – wood, recycled paper, pure wool, felt, cotton, natural fabrics – and include more unique designs. Because I can only order small amounts, I contacted manufacturers directly and, at times, asked if they could provide me with particular items.

I found a fairtrade felt manufacturer in Kathmandu, Nepal and asked it to make felt necklaces, bracelets and purses. Our wooden items come from a UK-based supplier.

Business Link helped with the rules and regulations of starting up your own business, dealing with importing goods and their taxes and duties. My family, friends and other mums have also been extremely helpful, especially as regards reviewing products.

I’ve now got an arsenal of sustainable party goods and am constantly on the lookout for new alternative gift ideas. Our ‘warehouse’ is the spare bedroom and the whole business is run from our home. 

Since the website went live this May I have had positive feedback about filling this gap in the market. Even some restaurant chains have got in contact, interested in kids goodie bags.

I next aim to tackle Christmas gifts. I’ve noticed when my own kids open presents that the pile of wrapping is just as big as the pile of toys. Along with plastic gifts, there is also a lot of plastic packaging.

I’m hoping that the market will take off and there will eventually be more suppliers. My ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the plastic mountain and to make children think about the things they are getting. Wood can be just as fun to play with as plastic.

As told to Matilda Lee

This article first appeared in the Ecologist November 2007


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