You’d be forgiven for overlooking one of the most significant changes at ICAST this year. It wasn’t a lure, nor was it a trolling motor or a new rod or reel. In fact, one of the most significant changes at ICAST this year wasn’t even at the show—it was the absence of something that nearly every fishing lure company at then show uses, a blister pack.
In May, FTR wrote about the challenges that tackle manufacturers are confronting with single-use plastics. Premium lure prices demand premium presentation in packaging, or so the marketing story goes. But as consumers grow more aware of the negative environmental impact of plastics, brands in the fishing world are beginning to take notice. They’re beginning to see that reducing their dependance on such plastics can positively affect both the natural world on which this industry revolves around, but also their bottom line and brand reputation as well.
Enter Westin Fishing, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based lure manufacturer who’s a household name in Europe but a fledgling brand in the United States. At ICAST 2019, one of the most significant changes in fishing was taking place with no fanfare and no marketing push in their booth. To find it, you needed to look closely at the packaging of one lure, the Swim SW glide bait. Inside of its clear, plastic packaging sat a shimmering new lure with glinting hooks. It floated freely in its transparent coffin—without a blister pack.
“It’s important to have good packaging that presents and protects the product,” says Westin product Manager Elias Narvelo. “What we found was that we could still achieve those results even when we eliminated the internal blister packaging from the box. The result was a savings of almost 600 pounds of plastic waste on a just a small, 10,000 piece order!”
600 pounds of plastic. That’s the weight of two average refrigerators. Sure, it’s a small drop in the 18 billion pound bucket of plastic waste that plagues the planet yearly, but it’s a drop nonetheless. And, as a bonus, Narvelo says that dropping the blister packaging from the Swim SW saves a pretty penny on shipping costs as well.
“In general, the production cost is more or less the same, but where we save money is during shipping and transport, since the weight and measure of the specific product is much less than before. It’s an added benefit for us, because the most important thing is to reduce the plastic waste.”
Scandinavia is decidedly ahead of America on this mark. Plastic straws, which make up about 4% of plastic waste yearly, are illegal in Denmark. However, Americans are making strides here—Starbucks pledged to completely eliminate plastic straws by next year, as has American Airlines, Marriott and Hyatt—but we still lag behind Europe on this front. Fortunately, the fishing tackle industry has a chance to makeup for that lost ground. After all, this industry is one of the most closely tied to rivers, lakes and oceans, where the majority of microplastic pollution ends up.
So if you’re a tackle manufacturer, how do you pull your weight?
Narvelo says eliminating all blister packaging is not a universal solution. Some products simply require an internal package to protect their working parts during shipping. Even at Westin, it’s not possible to eliminate all use of blister packaging. If you’re selling jointed baits, prop baits or other lures with fragile components, you’re likely to require protection beyond an outer shell. However, many lures currently shipping with blister packs simply don’t need them. According to Narvelo, Westin plans to eliminate blister packaging in more products for 2020.
Some of the solutions that work for a mid-size manufacturer like Westin might not work behemoths like Pure Fishing or Strike King or PRADCO, but then again, they might. It’s up to each individual manufacturer to take a look at their production line and assess the impact of their packaging. How much does it weigh? Do you really need that lure to stand up straight? Or is telling the consumer, “Hey, we care more about our fisheries than ourselves,” more important than presenting a flawlessly balanced bait in a clear, plastic box?
Westin isn’t alone in this fight. Eyewear giant Costa has been promoting its Kick Plastic campaign for years now, and they’re supported by a growing number of manufacturers who want to do their part to keep fisheries healthy and as plastic free as possible. The savings on shipping? In a climate where supply chain prices are rising in the wake of a trade war, every little bit counts.
“Up until recently, blister packaging has been an industry standard,” Narvelo adds. “Luckily, that’s changing now.”