The remembrance poppy, an iconic symbol of respect for fallen soldiers and a poignant reminder of the futility of war, has undergone its first significant design change in over a quarter of a century. In line with the government’s ban on single-use plastics, the Royal British Legion (RBL) has introduced a new 100% paper version of the emblem. This move marks a significant step toward sustainability and environmental responsibility. This blog explores the evolution of the poppy’s design and the recent efforts to make it recyclable.

The Evolution of Remembrance Poppies:

The Evolution of The Poppy

The tradition of wearing remembrance poppies dates to the aftermath of World War I when they were used to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany in 1919. Over the years, poppies have undergone several design changes to reflect evolving materials and societal needs.

The poppies have been through a variety of changes since its inception. Starting with the first poppy, which used silk for the petals, wire for the stem, and bitumen for the centre. They came in various designs to cater to different budgets.

Now, in 2023, the RBL introduced a plastic-free poppy made entirely from paper, which is fully recyclable at home. The paper used to make this innovative new design comes from renewable sources, including coffee cup offcuts. This new poppy retains the traditional shape, with an embossed black centre and a leaf with a crease. It can be fastened with a pin in the stem or worn in a buttonhole.

The reasons for this change are that the green stem and black centre of the poppy are currently made of plastic. At present, the only way to recycle the whole poppy is at select Sainsbury’s branches. Many poppies are discarded, lost, or thrown away, leading to concerns among environmental campaigners.

So, a call to action was planned by the Royal British Legion. Green campaigners and politicians called for remembrance poppies to be fully recyclable or even biodegradable to reduce their environmental impact. They argued that the Royal British Legion could use this opportunity to champion reuse, making poppies that supporters can keep and use again yearly.

By 2025, the RBL hopes to sell only plastic-free poppies, reducing the environmental footprint of this iconic symbol. The recent redesign, assessed by scientists at University College London, is expected to cut carbon emissions by 40% compared to the previous paper-plastic version.

The evolution of remembrance poppies reflects changing materials and societal preferences. The recent introduction of a plastic-free, fully recyclable poppy is a significant step toward making this symbol more sustainable. While there are still challenges to address, the commitment to reducing the environmental impact of remembrance poppies is a commendable endeavour that aligns with broader efforts to tackle plastic pollution and promote environmental responsibility.