Next in our #TenWithTom series, we spoke to Flexi-Hex™ about how their iconic design started, and their sustainable journey…
With one clear goal to remove plastic from the packaging industry, Flexi-Hex® use their patented honeycomb design to protect a range of products, including some of our handcrafted designs, all whilst protecting the planet. We've caught up with them about how they're growing and evolving as a sustainable business, based here in Cornwall.
Tell us a bit about how Flexi-Hex™ started?
FH:Flexi-Hex started in early 2018 when twin brothers, Sam and Will Boex, recognised the amount of plastic pollution ending up in marine environments, both at home in Cornwall and across the world. A poor experience buying surfboards online pushed them to look at developing a sustainable alternative to bubble wrap that was 100% plastic-free, recyclable, and compostable.
Our customers often comment on how easy your packaging is to recycle and are delighted to find it’s 100% biodegradable. What other credentials does it boast?
FH:That’s so good to hear, thank you! As well as being recyclable, Flexi-Hex sleeves are made from over 85% recycled paper pulp. Where we cannot use recycled materials, we use FSC certified paper which comes from sustainably managed forests where no more wood is cut down than the forests can reproduce. We believe good design should be practical, effective, and attractive. That’s why all our packaging solutions are easy to use, flexible and extremely strong. The sleeve itself is incredibly compact in its natural state to reduce storage and shipping costs, but can expand up to 250mm wide, making it incredibly adaptable to a wide range of products. Our boxes and wraps can be easily customised to showcase your brand’s personality and give consumers an elevated unboxing experience which is becoming increasingly important in a growing e-commerce market.
How do you design your packaging – does the design begin with certain product types in mind?
FH:The original design inspiration came from an apple! Co-Founder Sam realised that if you can package fruit of all different shapes and sizes using a simple mesh sleeve then you must be able to apply a similar concept to surfboards. So, him and Will started doing some serious research and experimenting with different materials until they came across paper honeycomb. After playing around with ideas and prototypes, they developed a paper honeycomb sleeve that ended up fitting perfectly around snow and surfboards. Following a successful launch within the board sports industry, they quickly realised the adaptability of the sleeve and how it could be applied across a range of industries including drinks, commercial and homeware.
How do you test your packaging quality and effectiveness?
FH:Our packaging has passed European drop tests from 1.2m and our own drop tests from 4m. We are confident in the strength of our packaging and have helped many brands reduce their breakage rates to less than 1%. For example, Tinkture now have a 0% breakage rate down from approximately 10%.
Are there any other industries that you’d particularly love to take your packaging to?
FH: Beauty and electronics are two industries we’d love to help with supporting the move to plastic-free packaging. Flexi-Hex Air is our most recent product which launched in December 2020 and was designed with cosmetics in mind. Made in partnership with Seaman Paper, these smaller, lighter sleeves are made from FSC certified tissue paper which makes them ideal for protecting smaller fragile goods like skincare products, CBD oils, phones, and laptops.
Do you make your packaging at your workplace in Porthleven, Cornwall?
FH:Our sleeves are currently manufactured in China; however, we are looking into our supply chain to see how we can reduce our carbon output and work with manufacturers and distributors across the globe to reduce transportation and delivery miles as much as possible. We have just hired a supply chain team whose primary focus will be sourcing the most carbon friendly shipping routes and green companies to work with. In the meantime, we are offsetting our carbon emissions with Mossy Earth who have already planted 525 native trees in Ireland on our behalf. This is equivalent to removing 130 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere!
Tell us a little about your Planet Mark certification and what this means to your brand?
FH:Planet Mark is a sustainability certification that recognises continuous improvement in sustainability and builds a community of like-minded individuals and businesses who are taking climate action to create a brighter more sustainable future for us and our planet. As a proud Planet Mark member, we are committed to measuring and reducing our carbon emissions by 5% or more year on year and we will continue to encourage sustainable action and drive change.
Why is sustainability important to you?
FH:Like Tom Raffield, we are very lucky to be based down in beautiful Cornwall. We love that we have the ocean and its surrounding landscape on our doorstep to enjoy during the workday, but unfortunately the effects of climate change and the plastic pollution crisis are becoming more and more apparent. Seeing the impact that single-use plastics are having on our environment is a real motivator for us to reduce the amount of packaging waste ending up in our environment and raise awareness of the environmental threats currently facing our world.
It’s fantastic to see your business spearheading sustainability and bringing it to the attention of large global brands - what practices make your day-to-day workplace and work life green?
FH:We are lucky to have an environmentally conscious and engaged team who all share a passion for the outdoors and a desire to protect it. We encourage eco-habits in the workplace, for example, we all have reusable water bottles and use Kankan refillable soaps. Over the summer we organised a beach clean at one of our local beaches, which is something we are looking to do every three months. We are currently looking at switching to a greener energy supplier and we are doing what we can to reduce our carbon emissions, both as individuals and as a business. Where we cannot make reductions, we are offsetting and contributing to reforestation and rewilding projects with Mossy Earth, making us a proud carbon neutral business. As we grow and technology progresses, we will continue to adapt and change to ensure we are at the forefront of sustainable innovation.
What would you consider your biggest achievement to date?
FH:At Flexi-Hex, our goal is a clear one – to remove plastic from the packaging industry and to raise awareness of the impact single-use plastics have on the world’s marine environments. In June, we hit a big milestone when we sold our two millionth bottle sleeve (one million in just 3 months!) and with the help of our customers we have prevented over 3,053km of plastic packaging from being used. This is equivalent to, as the crow flies, Cornwall to Moscow!
What does the next six months hold for you?
FH:We have just started the B-Corp application process, so this will be a big focus for us over the next six months. We are also in the process of developing outer packaging solutions that can be paired with our Flexi-Hex Air sleeves for safely packing electronic and beauty products.