Posted: 10/05/2019

Greener Thinking: Proud of your packaging?


Packaging has become a big sticking point recently – whether you’re a buyer or an end consumer. As awareness has risen around single use plastics, so too has the understanding of just how abundant these materials are in the food and drink we buy – and this is starting to affect purchasing decisions.

For instance, there’s been a backlash against the black plastic trays used in many ready-meals because they can’t be sorted properly at recycling centres. Perfectly recyclable plastics are ending up in landfill. The problem is significant enough to prompt Waitrose to remove 13,000 tons of the stuff from its range already, with plans to phase it out completely by the end of the year.

In the independent sector, there’s been a rise in the number of ‘zero waste’ shops opening, offering everything – from olive oil and pulses through to shampoos and frozen fruit – from bulk dispensers, as well as selling reusable cotton produce bags, jars and cans. Home delivery services are also trying to move into this sector, with outfits like Good Club showing signs of success.  

And delis and farm shops can adapt to better serve this growing customer base easily, too. Highlighting the low food miles associated with local produce, offering more loose items, and bringing on lines that boast more sustainable packaging materials, will all boost their credentials.

At the producers’ end, this could mean reevaluating your packaging completely. The eco-credentials of the materials used to keep your product fresh are becoming just as important as that sexy new label design and rebrand you had in mind. 

However you try to make a difference, plastic alternatives still need some serious thought:

Biodegradable and compostable options

There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to biodegradable materials. For the most part, many of them will biodegrade but need the special enzymes in a commercial composter in order to break down, which isn’t exactly ideal. The coffee industry has relied on mixed material bags that have to go to landfill and alternatives appear to be thin on the ground. However, Illy is available in metal cans, while Bournemouth’s Bad Hand Coffee is leading the sustainable charge in coffee with its omnidegradable packaging that breaks down when it comes into contact with microbes present in fresh water, salt water and landfill. 

Similarly, Two Farmers crisps use a packet that can simply be placed in your average garden compost heap and will break down completely in just 26 weeks. 

Glass and metal

Shelf life and freshness are big priorities for producers and retailers, and glass and metal continue to be a solid option, because both materials can be recycled infinitely (more on the resources used to recycle them another time, though). 

With the conversation around materials, waste and sustainability now louder than ever, it’s becoming increasingly important to have packaging you can be proud of both visually and environmentally. 

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