Interview: Why We Use Plastic
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- January 13, 2020
- 6 min read
At Honestly Good, we appreciate all feedback – from the good, to the bad, and even the ugly. One common theme that has come up recently has been the use of plastic at our company.
To dispel the myths and misconceptions, and to explain our actions in more depth, we decided to interview our founder, with some of the toughest questions posed to us via email and social media.
AD: Hi Vikesh, these questions might not be easy! Are you ready for this?
VK: Hi Alicia, ready when you are 👌
AD: Firstly – please can you be completely transparent about all the packaging that’s used at Honestly Good?
VK: Sure, so breaking it down piece by piece:
Packaging we receive
– Most of our fresh fruit + veg arrives in cardboard boxes from our suppliers, ready to be re-used elsewhere in the kitchen, or recycled
– Some of our dry ingredients (nuts, seeds, superfood powders) arrive in cardboard sacks (like big flour bags), and others arrive in plastic bags, all of which we recycle
– Food waste from production is then dropped off to an allotment nearby for composting
Packaging we send out
– Cardboard box – this is recycled card and is compostable or recyclable
– Woollen lining – This is used to insulate the boxes, and is made from upcycled wool, that didn’t quite make the cut for jumpers and jeans and would otherwise have been thrown away
– Dry Ice – This is cool stuff (honestly!). Frozen carbon dioxide, it’s solid at -78 degrees C and keeps everything frozen in transit, and is usually sublimated (turned into gas and disappeared) by the time it arrives
– The pouches containing your ingredients are made from a monostructure LDPE plastic, and all labels are the same material too.
AD: Got it. So, LDPE plastic – what exactly does that stand for?
VK: LDPE is Low-Density Polyethylene. It’s often used for shrink wrap, the dry-cleaner wrapping and packaging of bread / bakery items.
AD: Ok, thanks for clarifying, and is it widely recyclable?
VK: LDPE has the number 4 symbol on it, and some councils do recycle it, while others currently can’t. Most councils use an independent contractor for recycling, and each of them have their own setup and equipment, with different capabilities.
AD: So if my council doesn’t take it. What do I do?
VK: When developing our packaging, we called lots of councils across the country to find out about recycling capabilities, but were disappointed with how fragmented everything was; we found it difficult to get the information we needed, and appreciate it’s not something every household has the time to undertake. So…
We decided to launch our very own recycling scheme! You can now send your pouches back to us free of charge, and we’ll ensure we send them off to our recycling partner, ready to be used for fabrication and lots of other applications in the construction industry 🙂
AD: And how do I post it back to you? Do I have to pay for it?
VK: You’ll receive a paper bag and a free returns label every 3 – 4 boxes, which you can use to collect your woolly liners, and plastic pouches. When your bag’s full to the brim, just head down to your local collect plus location to drop it off, and we’ll do the rest 🙂
AD: So the big question – why exactly are you using plastic?
VK: I know plastic gets a lot of stick, and often rightly so, but here are a few ways plastic can be really useful too:
– Plastic preserves foods for longer, with no need for additives or other nasties
– It provides a strong barrier against moisture, contamination, gases, insects etc
– It’s easy to transport in bulk, with relatively low footprint compared to cardboard or other materials
– Plastic can be recycled many times before end of life, if done so correctly
For us, the main reason to choose plastic for our frozen smoothie ingredients is because it’s one of the only materials we could find that provides the moisture barrier we need to keep our smoothies safe and fresh in transit and in the freezer.
AD: Surely there must be another alternative for frozen products?
VK: We’re always on the lookout for more sustainable materials, and have been experimenting with bamboo and a number of other materials too, as part of our plans for a completely re-usable packaging system. We’re excited about some of the progress we’ve made, but still lots of testing to do on this front 😉
If anyone has any ideas on materials we could use, or you’re a supplier of an alternative, please feel free to email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org as I’d love to learn more.
AD: I’ve noticed that more and more companies are making their packaging compostable, such as Snact. Why isn’t this something you’re doing?
VK: Great question – it’s great to see so many brands now starting to use compostable packaging. Compostable food packaging typically comes in two forms: paper / card (with a biodegradable plastic lining inside) or straight up biodegradable plastic.
Most compostable or biodegradable plastics are made from PLA (polylactic acid) derived from plant-based sources such as corn starch or sugar cane. We did some extensive research into compostable or biodegradable alternatives, but found that the cellulose inside the plant based plastics become rigid and start to crack when frozen, so it isn’t something we can currently use 🙁 Keeping an open mind on this as I know everyone is looking for a solution for frozen food!
AD: Will you ever stop using plastic?
VK: Good question. Specifically for the pouches, we’re hoping to move to a reusable alternative in the near future. But will we completely stop using plastic, in every way?
I’m not a fan of trying to eliminate plastic use just to be able to say so, unless it’s actually more sustainable. Is cardboard better for the environment than plastic? Absolutely, but not in every application. You could be solving one problem, and creating another; a lot of it depends on what you’re using to measure how sustainable a material might be – is it carbon footprint, volume of harmful chemicals used in its manufacture, risk of it not being disposed of properly or conditions of workers making the material? Here’s a little snippet of info from a recent report by the Environment Agency as food for thought (puns fully intended):
We’re always trying to make the best decision by the planet, and really do keep an open mind about the materials we use for everything, right down to every label or paper insert. We’ll continue assessing everything we do to limit our impact on the planet, and do our little bit of good wherever we can 🙂
AD: What are the biggest misconceptions that you think people believe about plastic?
VK: That all plastic is made equal and that it’s all bad. A big part of the problem is the disposal and recycling of plastic, rather than the use of plastic (though I’m a big fan of using reusable rather than disposable materials wherever possible).
AD: Some people believe that if a business relies on plastic, it isn’t good for the planet, full stop. What’s your response to that, and can you tell us about some of the ways your company does help the planet, and act sustainably?
VK: As mentioned before, I think it’s definitely about assessing every use case individually and figuring out what’s the best material for the job. We’ve always set out to limit our impact on the environment, and do our bit of good along the way, and here are a few initiatives that have come about over some espresso martinis:
– Everything we use is 100% organic. Organic isn’t a dietary choice, it’s a way of life. Find out more about the positive impact of Organic here and why we chose to be an Organic company here.
– All our peels, cores and skins from the production process are dropped off to allotments to be composted and used to grow more organic produce.
– We donate 2 meals to those in need for each and every box we send out.
– We use only compostable or recyclable materials in our packaging, and are committed to using just monostructural plastic, so it’s super easy to recycle too – pouches, labels or anything else are all the same polymer.
– We provide free returns for liners to be cleaned and reused, and have launched a recycling scheme too.
– We keep away from harmful chemicals in the kitchen, and choose to use good ol’ water and organic lemon juice wherever we can. Of course, there’s a time and a place for an antibacterial, used sparingly 🙂
– We recently changed from water-blanching to steam-blanching veggies, which has significantly reduced energy and water usage in the kitchen.
AD: Anything else you want people reading this to know?
VK: We love being able to work with local allotments to provide our food waste (peels, cores and skins) for composting, but we think there’s lots of goodness left that’d be lovely to eat. We’re experimenting with creating jams, pickles and crisps from those leftovers, and would love to know if you have any ideas on how we can better use banana peels, clementine peels and more – please feel free to drop me a line directly on email@example.com 🙂
AD: Thanks so much Vikesh!