UCL News


Remembrance poppy transformed to become plastic-free

19 April 2023

Scientists at UCL have worked with the Royal British Legion to assess a new plastic-free Remembrance poppy, finding that it produces 40% less carbon emissions over its lifetime.

UCL researchers help create new plastic-free Remembrance poppy

The Royal British Legion has been developing the plastic-free poppy for the last three years, in collaboration with expert partners, in efforts to reduce its use of single-use plastic and be economical, sustainable, and less impactful to the environment.

Researchers from UCL’s Department of Chemical Engineering were brought in to assess the environmental impact of the new poppy and ensure its sustainability, through a process known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The LCA group, led by Professor Paola Lettieri and Dr Andrea Paulillo, is internationally renowned for its work in LCA applied to energy and waste management systems, spanning from plastic waste reduction to nuclear waste reprocessing.

Dr Andrea Paulillo (UCL Chemical Engineering), who was involved in the Life Cycle Assessment, said: “Removing plastics from a product is not automatically good for the environment, sometimes they are the best choice. You need to be able to quantify the environmental impacts of products or services in a holistic way in order to make good decisions. Life Cycle Assessment considers a wide range of environmental issues and quantifies impacts that arise, from raw material extraction all the way to waste disposal. That’s how we can confidently say that the plastic-free poppy is indeed an improvement compared to the original design from an environmental standpoint.”

The new poppy has been created from bespoke red and green paper, which has been produced from a blend of renewable fibres from responsible sources, 50% of which has been recovered from the waste used in the production of coffee cups. The findings of the LCA revealed that the new poppy will reduce carbon emissions by 40%.

Andy Taylor-Whyte, Poppy Appeal Director at the Royal British Legion, said: “We’re so proud to unveil our plastic-free poppy, which is completely recyclable, and hope that this will encourage more people than ever to take part in this year’s Poppy Appeal and show support to our Armed Forces community.

“After years of work and collaboration with our partners designing a new poppy, creating new paper and machinery and road-testing it for durability and colour-fastness, we have been able to eliminate single-use plastic and create a poppy that is an enduring symbol of respect and remembrance as well as being more planet-friendly.”

Professor Paola Lettieri (UCL Chemical Engineering), who led the Life Cycle Assessment on the new poppy, said: “We appreciate the significance of the poppy and were delighted to be invited to assess the plastic-free poppy’s environmental impact and to suggest how it could be made more sustainable.

“We looked at its carbon footprint and factors like how much water and resources go into making it, in what’s called a Life Cycle Assessment. By replacing the single-use plastic with a paper-based design, and increasing the amount of recycled paper used, we found that the new poppy design has a 40% smaller carbon footprint and a similar reduction in its overall impact on the environment.”

The plastic-free poppy, which was created in collaboration with designers Matter and with bespoke paper supplier James Cropper, will be available alongside remaining stocks of the current poppy to reduce any waste of poppies already produced.




  • New plastic-free Remembrance poppy. Credit: Royal British Legion.

Media contact 

Matt Midgley 

Tel: +44 20 7679 9064

E: m.midgley [at] ucl.ac.uk