An end to the plastic poppy – a new era of remembrance

Plastic-free poppies are on sale for the first time this year.

The Royal British Legion has unveiled its first plastic-free poppy, made entirely from recyclable paper. The new design is the first major redesign in a generation, and it comes as the charity marks its 100th anniversary.

The new poppy is made from a blend of renewable fibres, featuring a black centre embossed with ‘Poppy Appeal’.

The first poppies, made in the Twenties, used silk for the petals, wire for the stem, and bitumen – a semi-hard petroleum – for the middle. While card was used for some poppies during World War II, this is the first time that the poppy has been made without any plastic since 1967.

Plastic-free poppiesCredit: Royal British Legion

How is the new plastic-free poppy made?

Coffee cups and renewable fibres

Crafted from sustainable paper derived from renewable sources, including leftover materials from coffee cups, the inventive new poppy design boasts a classic shape. Its black centre is elegantly embossed with ‘Poppy Appeal,’ and it comes with the all-important leaf.

The Royal British Legion said that the plastic-free poppy is a “symbol of our commitment to sustainability and environmental protection.”

It is also a way to ensure that the poppy remains a symbol of remembrance for generations to come.


Where can I get a plastic-free poppy?

Where to pick up your poppy

Plastic-free poppies are now on sale from thousands of volunteers across the UK and in major supermarkets.

You can also buy poppies online from the Royal British Legion website.

Featured product

Plastic-free poppy

RRP: £2

Plastic-free poppy

What should I do with my old plastic poppy?

Remember, then recycle

If you have an old plastic poppy, you can recycle it at Sainsbury’s supermarkets. The Royal British Legion is also working with other retailers to develop recycling schemes for old plastic poppies.

As the new poppy is made of renewable fibres, it can be recycled in ordinary paper recycling collections, including those collected directly from your home.

Where are poppies made?

Making history in Richmond

Today, most remembrance poppies are manufactured in a fully automated factory in Aylesford, Kent, but some are still made in The Poppy Factory in Richmond, which has been in operation for over 100 years.

One hundred years ago, Howson, a winner of the Military Cross and campaigner for disabled First World War veterans, had been given £2,000 by the British Legion to build a factory where veterans could be employed to make poppies for remembrance. He didn’t have high hopes.

At that stage, the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was in its very early stages. The world was still struggling to comprehend the cataclysmic losses of the war, searching for a language to express the unfathomable, or a symbol that could speak for the 35 million casualties.

In 1915, the thousands of poppies that had self-sown and transformed the mudscape of the Western Front had been immortalised by Canadian poet and doctor John McCrae.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row”

Men had sent poppies from the front in letters to their sweethearts. It marked scenes of horror, but also showed a fragile beauty and bravery, the possibility of renewal. It was a unifying flower – wild, not cultivated, available to everyone.

In the war’s aftermath, two women pushed to make the poppy a commemorative symbol.

American academic Moïna Michael encouraged the American Legion to adopt it in fundraising efforts, while in France, former teacher Anna Guérin had the idea of employing French war widows to make poppies from silk, to be bought and worn around the world on an ‘international poppy day’.

In August 1921, Guérin travelled to London to meet the British Legion and offered to fund the manufacture of one million poppies in France, to be sold in November on Armistice Day. This was accepted, and the Legion decided to have additional poppies manufactured in Britain and commissioned eight million.

The people of Britain seized on it: the silk poppies sold out and raised £106,000 (£3 million in today’s money) for veteran support. The following year, the British Legion began looking for a source where poppies could be made in far greater numbers.


The Poppy Factory in south-east London was the answer. Many of Howson’s recruits were amputees for which machinery was adapted, and the factory provided accommodation as well as work.

By 1931, the factory moved to Richmond, south-west London, and was producing 30 million poppies a year. It was also home to 320 workers, wives and children. The first women joined the workforce in 1959.

Today, it remains a lifeline for veterans. It runs a specialist UK-wide employment service for veterans with mental and physical health conditions and also employs 22 people, mostly veterans and their dependants, at the factory, which makes tens of thousands of wreaths a year, including all the royal wreaths.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 23 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars.

A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

Jayne lives in Kent with a shepsky, her husband and her son, who is attempting to teach her the ways of TikTok, Aston Villa and anime. A keen neurodivergent ally after her son was diagnosed as autistic five years ago, when Jayne does have some rare downtime she enjoys yoga, reading, going to musicals and attempting to emulate Beyonce (poorly) in street dance classes.

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