Some thoughts on packaging... July 03 2016 3 Comments

We wanted to address our stance on some of the packaging we use as we’ve had a few comments recently. If you have been following us for the past 2.5+ years you’ll know how passionate we are about re-using our glass bottles. Choosing to use glass for our juice is a massive commitment that generally makes things far more difficult on a daily basis - think storage space, transportation, weight, sterilisation, re-washing and re-using hundreds of bottles by hand and the potential of lower sales due to inconvenience for customer. 

We didn’t make this decision because glass looks cool, because most of the time it’s completely frustrating and the temptation to switch can be strong. We made this decision because we don’t think business should come before the planet and the creatures we share it with. We also think glass retains the quality of the easily perishable raw juice as much as possible, so it made sense to us.

As we’ve grown away from being a wholesale business and into our new shop, the chance to invent new, non-juice products has developed. This includes things like smoothies, raw desserts and salads. All of this means packaging of some sort. We don’t have proper sit-down seating and our kitchen is unfortunately in a different premises, so we are very much a grab & go type place. This means customers need to be able to take their food away. Our heart wasn’t in this at all at first but we realised for every person that buys from our shop that’s one less person going into a big food chain or place that sells unethical products.

After thorough (and often contradicting!) research we decided on using some BPA-free rPET packaging for some of our food items and smoothies. PET is one of the most easily recyclable plastics in the world and rPET is even better as it’s not a virgin material. It still needs to be disposed of properly so we have dedicated bins in our shop and can only encourage people to do the same outside, but plastic recycling is quite easy to come by these days. We know it still isn't perfect and we do hope for better alternatives in the future.

We also looked into PLA (plant plastics) and although we used it briefly in the past, we are unable to use it now as we are certified organic by the Soil Association. It turns out something in the growing process is genetically modified and is potentially damaging to local soil and wildlife. If you sell organic food you are essentially forbidden from using it. Yes, it is compostable under specific conditions but it’s hard to come by industrial food recycling facilities on a daily basis and when disposed of improperly, which is highly likely, it can be difficult to degrade. So there are big practical constraints there too. We do feel if there was a massive overhaul in the way we recycle, where composting was as easy and normalised for everyone as plastic recycling, it would be worth pushing forward with PLA. It is a common misconception that PLA magically degrades in the bin or your back garden. So until recycling systems change, it just ends up in the rest of the rubbish in the bin or being stuck in with easily recyclable plastics like PET by accident, sort of 'getting in the way' of that pre-existing system.

After the amount of time that went into figuring out how we could cause as little harm as possible, you can understand how frustrating it is when someone bashes our packaging as if it’s not something we care deeply about. Without sounding too defensive and borderline arrogant, we truly feel we try harder than most companies when it comes to environmentally-conscious business practice. It’s not a competition and two wrongs don't make a right but we will always look for ways to improve in this area. It goes beyond packaging for us. For example, we only serve plant-based food and this will always be the case. Even with this simple act that most people will look past, we are drastically slashing our carbon footprint by not selling animal produce. We only use certified organic produce thereby retaining the quality of our soil and water; we up-sell stainless steel straws to our customers to encourage them not to use a plastic straw each time; we encourage up-cycling of our bottles; we give away some of our pulp; we have dedicated food waste/dry mixed recycling bins in our kitchen as well as a recycle bin in our shop so our packaging can be disposed of properly; we have recycle incentives for our glass bottles and of course there’s the general labour that comes with re-using every bottle. We aren’t just saying this to blow our own trumpet and we know we sound completely self-righteous-y but this is a huge amount of dedication that makes our daily job a lot more challenging. Being told to try harder can be tough.

We get that it’s tempting to bash companies and pick on areas where you think they could improve. So many businesses jump on the environmentally-friendly bandwagon to look ‘ethical’ when in reality they are still causing a staggering amount of damage. We get that it’s just to save face for them but this is something genuinely so close to our hearts in every way possible. We hope that’s obvious from the fact we clearly reflect on the issue a lot and even chose to do this blog. If you can think of any smart ideas where you think we could cut down on packaging even further, then feel free to let us know. 


More info:

http://www-tc.pbs.org/strangedays/pdf/StrangeDaysSmartPlasticsGuide.pdf

https://www.soilassociation.org/media/5247/sa-packaging-guidance.pdf

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/corn-plastic-to-the-rescue-126404720/?page=1

http://www.cuttingthecarbon.co.uk/climate-change/ten-things/less-meat

http://timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-definition

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/green_room/2011/06/plastic_by_any_other_name.html