Matter designs new plastic-free poppy for Royal British Legion

Using recycled coffee cups and renewable wood fibre, Matter devised a single-material poppy which seeks to improve the remembrance poppy’s environmental credentials.

Matter has designed a new plastic-free Royal British Legion poppy made entirely from red and green bespoke paper comprised of 50% recycled coffee cup fibres.

Millions of poppies are given out across the UK every year during October and November in return for a donation to the annual Poppy Appeal, which supports ex-serving personnel and their families. In October 2022, pacifist campaigning organisation Peace Pledge Union (PPU) revealed a new eco-friendly design for its white poppy, designed by print and design co-operative Calverts.

Initially Matter approached speciality paper mill James Cropper – which has supplied materials for the poppies since 1978 – with the idea of a 100% paper poppy. With a collaborative proposition, they approached the Royal British Legion and discovered that they had already initiated a work stream to remove plastic from the poppy. “We then evolved our proposition to align it with their technical requirements”, says Matter design director John Macdonald.

Matter set out to remove single use plastic from the design and offer “a single material solution that could be easily recycled”, says Macdonald. A mono-material product is generally easier to recycle as it cuts down on production time and complexity from the processes required to split or separate various materials. Macdonald says the studio also wanted to avoid any “expensive and complicated bio-based plastics” with the new design.

A key consideration was the manufacturing and assembly process. With the poppies being produced in such high numbers, Matter needed to devise a process that worked on a high-speed assembly line and did not require the use of adhesives, according to Macdonald.

First, paper reels are sent from the mill to the automated production lines, developed by Sewtec  before the components are cut and assembled into poppies. Its overall form, usability and robustness were also tested early in the process.

The Poppy Green and Poppy Red Paper is fully recyclable and made from 50% recycled coffee cup fibres and 50% renewable wood fibre. Macdonald explains how the print finish details of the paper “lift the 3D form and deliver a quality that the remembrance occasion deserves”. He describes the approach of the new poppy as “bold and elegant”, as well as innovative.

Matter aimed to reduce carbon emissions from production by 40% with the new materials and design.

While much thought was given to the sustainability credentials of the poppy, Macdonald adds that Matter never lost sight of the central ambition: “to deliver a symbol of remembrance that remains true to the iconic poppy”.

The petal and leaf outlines have been maintained for this purpose, while the paper stem “is wider than the original plastic stem for structural reasons”, says Macdonald. Matter also added emboss details to the central, black pistil “to reflect the moulded plastic pistil and retained the crimp details around the petal”, he adds.

Other aesthetic changes include an added crease in the leaf and stem to help “lift some 3D form in the paper and raise the petal off the surface”, Macdonald explains.

Matter director Matt Wright says, “We are incredibly proud to have designed the next-generation poppy and to do it in such an effective way. The new design significantly reduces impact on the environment and honours the profound symbolism of the Poppy Appeal’s icon.”

The new paper poppy will be available for the 2023 Poppy Appeal later this year, alongside remaining stocks of the previous poppy. They can be returned to Sainsbury’s stores for recycling.

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