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Will Thomas, IACF managing director (right) at the Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair on Thursday, December 5, testing the strength of the IACF's new compostable bag with stallholder Fred Tomlinson (left).

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IACF’s managing director, Will Thomas, said the use of compostable bags made from potato starch was part of the firm’s efforts to reduce its carbon and plastic footprint.

“As the UK’s largest antiques fair organiser, we have a responsibility to lead the industry on issues like recycling,” he said.

Recyclable bags will ultimately replace the fair organiser’s conventional plastic version, currently dispensed free to stall-holders for packaging customer purchases.

Charge for compostable bags

Dealers will now be required to pay 5p per compostable bag, with this money donated by IACF to a recycling charity.

“We hope dealers will understand why we’ve taken this course of action,” Thomas said. “It’s a big investment for IACF and in donating the small bag charge, the move will cost us money."

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Olivia O'Neil, dealer stalling out at IACF Newark, said: "I'm really happy about the change to compostable bags. We all need to do more to help the environment and this is a great step. It's what antiques are all about: sustainability, recycling and being as eco-friendly as possible."

At Newark this Thursday and Friday (5-6 December), IACF stewards began showing stall-holders the new compostable bags  partly chosen for their practicality, Thomas said. “We’ve tested these bags and they are strong,” he said.

Bags made from paper would be ineffective for IACF's all-weather fairs, Thomas added.

Rachel Everett, who as IACF’s operations manager is in charge of fair logistics, said of the move: “Antiques are the most recyclable of purchases – we need to align our use of plastic in the same way.”

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IACF's distinctive plastic bag, which was handed out free to stall holders at the fair organiser's 40 events across the country. Dealers will now have to pay 5p per bag for the compostable version, money that will be donated to a recycling charity.

Industry’s green stance

The move comes as the antiques sector boosts its profile as a green business with a low carbon footprint selling recycled goods. In Ireland for example, the local dealers’ association has made a pitch to the Irish government for ‘green business’ tax-free status.

In July this year, Antiques Trade Gazette changed to compostable packaging for its weekly print paper, a move that earned praise from readers.

“Another positive reason to subscribe to the paper version of the ATG: its usefulness extends to more than just information,” wrote Derek Newman of Newman Fine Art in Painswick, Gloucestershire.