Poppies are plastic-free for first time since 1968, as they go on sale ahead of Remembrance Sunday

26 October 2023, 08:27

Poppies are plastic-free
Poppies are plastic-free. Picture: Royal British Legion

By Kit Heren

Poppies made without plastic for the first time in over 50 years have gone on sale ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

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Sales of the poppies, worn as a tribute to veterans, raise money for former soldiers, current troops and their families. The appeal, run by the Royal British Legion, normally garners around £40 million in donations every year.

This year's poppy, available in supermarkets or from thousands of volunteers, has been redesigned for the first time in a generation to remove single-use plastics.

The previous version of the poppy is also available from Sainsbury's, as the Royal British Legion looks to clear out the remaining stock.

The new poppies are made entirely from paper, and no longer have a plastic centre or stem. The paper is produced from renewable fibres, and can be recycled at home.

Half of the paper comes from unwanted materials from the production of paper coffee cups.

Read more: Kate Middleton gives boy her poppy in sweet moment during visit to London children's centre

Read more: Watch: Thief steals poppy box from butcher's shop on Remembrance weekend

Poppies have been made without plastic for the first time in 53 years
Poppies have been made without plastic for the first time in 53 years. Picture: Royal British Legion

The poppies can be fastened with a pin in the stem, or worn in a buttonhole. A stick-on version is also available.

The Royal British Legion said it had been developing the design for three years, and that it could reduce emissions by 40%.

D-Day and Royal Navy veteran John Roberts, 99, from Whitstable, said: "I've been wearing a poppy for more than 70 years, all different versions from cardboard ones, cotton ones and ones with a plastic centre and today's new plastic-free version but while the poppies have changed, what will always remain is its important meaning.

"When I see people wearing a poppy, I think of all those we lost in World War Two.

John Roberts has backed the redesign
John Roberts has backed the redesign. Picture: Alamy

"During the D-Day landings, my ship was based just offshore at Sword Beach. I witnessed the destruction happening on land - I'd never seen anything like it and never saw anything like it again.

"I was one of the lucky ones who survived as our ship was narrowly missed by a torpedo, so I wear my poppy to remember those who weren't so lucky."

Stars like Joanna Lumley and Bill Bailey have backed the redesigned poppy.

Lumley, the star of comedy Absolutely Fabulous said: “I’m proud to support the Royal British Legion as it launches its annual Poppy Appeal with a ­fantastic new plastic-free poppy.

“The Armed Forces make sacrifices every day so we can enjoy our freedoms and way of life.

Joanna Lumley has endorsed the redesigned poppy
Joanna Lumley has endorsed the redesigned poppy. Picture: Royal British Legion

“Your contribution will help the Royal British Legion continue supporting the Armed Forces community all year round, so please wear your ­plastic-free poppy with pride, as I do, to show that you care.”

Comedian Bailey said: "said: “I’m proud to support the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and wear my plastic-free poppy.

"It’s a small act of appreciation to those in the Armed Forces and their families who have given so much.”

Andy Taylor-Whyte, director of the campaign, said: "We're so proud that this year we have our new plastic-free poppy too, so that the public can wear this poignant symbol of remembrance with less impact on the environment.

"Since the first Poppy Appeal in 1921 to today, public donations have provided a lifeline for service people and their families, and last year, we helped more than 27,000 people in the armed forces community.

"As a veteran myself, I am grateful to the public for giving what they can to support the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal this year."

There have been over ten versions of the poppy throughout the years, including those from hand-crafted red silk with wire stems in the 1920s and a cardboard "austerity poppy" in wartime in the 1940s.

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