On my journey to find our company an environmentally friendly packaging solution, I was never prepared that my quest would take me on a long, long trail, where I think I’ve learnt more than some of the ‘experts’ I have talked to.
I’ve found that what is deemed recyclable in one council, is not in another and the same applies for compostable and biodegradable materials – some councils landfill where others incinerate. After making friends with some of the people I’ve spoken to, the system at the moment really does seem like a huge grey area. If legislation had all councils doing the same, then us as little businesses and households would be clear on what could go where. If compostable and biodegradable were separated then put in landfills they could actually enrich the soil not like it is now, where it’s being mixed with everything else.
A lot of manufacturers have actually tried to sway me down towards the plastic route, “so you can put a recycle sign on your packaging” they have said, but we didn’t want to do this. The WRAP (waste resources, action programme) guidelines have only just changed (Feb 2019) and I seem to have been thrown into the spin cycle of a washing machine. This is not the type of recycle I had in mind in my search for the perfect product… upcycle, recycle, actual cycling (I myself am a rower, but each to their own).
As I told my new friend at WRAP, recycling plastic is all well and good if you are a conscientious recycler, however to the millions who are not, it ends up everywhere, forever… not composting, or bio-degrading… just destroying, polluting and killing. On a recent trip to the beach with our dogs I saw a sign ‘no dogs on the beach’, yet the sand was covered in plastic bottles and cartons, all left all by humans, but if it had been paper, card, bagasse etc it would have eventually composted. Ideally we should all throw everything into bins, but some people don’t.
Over the past few months I have talked to huge organisations, sources like WRAP, government bodies, councils from different areas in the uk and so, so many manufacturers for my research. I was even told by one equally frustrated manufacturer, who by the way has what I believe a great product, that I seemed to know far too much about the whole situation for a food company, but what have I actually learnt is:
1. All councils have different rules and regulations.
2. Lots of products are coated in CPET (plastics) and if the coating under the new rules is over 3-5%, they are not accepted in the recycling system as they can’t pulp it to recycle it, because as part of the process the water has to break it down and can’t get through. Most of the ‘eco-friendly’ trays we have looked at are around 10%.
3. There are very few products that cater for freezer, oven and microwaves.
4. Some packaging which says it’s recyclable actually isn’t! In fact some of the alternatives to plastic are actually more harmful as they can’t be recycled at all.
5. Some packaging that actually is 100% recyclable is not recognised by some councils at the moment.
6. Only 18% of the UK have compost bins at home and use them.
7. Recycling is a lot like Brexit… not many of us understand it, but even if we think we do, we actually don’t.
8. Some companies bamboozle you with jargon and signs that just sound and look good, but actually aren’t good for the environment.
9. Lots of huge food companies are still using plastic, and what’s more they are using black plastic which isn’t accepted for recycling in many councils at all.
10. If I can do research and find alternatives why can’t the huge companies?!
11. Wildlife is dying every day as we continue to pollute our planet by turning a blind eye to the issue.
12. It would be fabulous if compostable products could go into separate waste where instead of giving off chemical gasses as other rubbish does, it would actually enrich the soil.
13. There are a few innovative companies out there who really do know their stuff and should really be educating the rest of us including the government.
14. I could give lectures on this subject now.
15. I work well dealing with this matter after a G&T (or two)!
So for now where does that leave us as a little company? Well we have come up with the best solution we can find at the moment –to quote a huge supermarket I spoke to “we are a work in progress”. We are also trying to do the best we can for now with the resources available. What we can promise is that we will continue to stay on top of packaging solutions and work to create products that are the best possible for the environment. We will also give you all of the information we have on all of the packaging we are using and if we do have to resort to using a little plastic for now, we will keep it to the minimum possible.
I would love to invite all of the powers that be to come sit around my much loved upcycled dining table, eat our delicious Persian food and all come to a decision on recycling across the country, while drinking Persian chai, (I’ll have my G&T) and eating scrumptious cakes that I’ve just made for them to celebrate. And then they all toddle off on their cycles or drive away in their Tesla’s while I throw away my recyclable cartons knowing exactly where they are going, reusing some and composting the rest.
So from our little kitchen to yours, let’s try – that’s all we can do and hopefully in the not too distant future we will all be reading from the same page.
Love Deb x
(Aka the ‘Eco Warrior’... or so I’ve recently been called!)