Subscribe to our mailing list

Royal British Legion urged to create recyclable red poppies

Remembrance poppies should be fully recyclable or even biodegradable, say green campaigners, amid fears millions will end up in landfill this month.

The Royal British Legion produces about 30m poppies each year. Although the flower and leaf are made from paper, the green stem and black centre are plastic.

At present, the only way to recycle the whole poppy – produced annually to mark Remembrance Day – is at Sainsbury’s branches.

Campaigners say a large number will inevitably end up being thrown away, discarded or simply lost while being worn, and are calling on the Royal British Legion to introduce a sustainable alternative.

“It’s so important that we move away from using disposable things wherever possible, and poppies are an excellent case in point,” said Daisy Hutchison, of the not-for-profit campaign group Plastic Free Hackney. “Royal British Legion could use this as an opportunity to champion reuse, to make something special that supporters can keep and use again each year.”

The Labour MP Clive Lewis, a former army reservist, said: “We do all have a part to play and introducing a recyclable poppy would be a good gesture from the Royal British Legion. But the climate crisis won’t be addressed by changes like this while our government refuses to commit to ending fossil fuel extraction immediately.”

His colleague Fleur Anderson, a Labour MP who is calling for a ban on all wet wipes containing plastic, added: “From plastic bags to bottles and now wet wipes and poppies, people are rightly asking for plastic-free products. This is forcing the industries to innovate and find other ways to make things that don’t kill millions of fish.”

The Royal British Legion said it was working to produce a poppy that has minimal impact on the environment. “We must be confident that the new poppy meets all necessary compliance requirements and is truly better for the environment before we commit to large-scale production,” a spokesperson said.

The Peace Pledge Union, which produces non-plastic white poppies often worn as a symbol of peace, said it would be selling fully recyclable poppies from next year. A spokesperson said: “This won’t increase the cost. This has been possible despite our operation being relatively small-scale.”