Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Packaging

Waste! So much of it. Some good news: France just banned plastic cups and cutlery. Of course the wasteful traditional packaging industry has threatened legal action, and thanks to ridiculous things like TTIP maybe they might even win. Still, good that France has the courage to stand up to the bad guys, unlike the UK Government and councils.

As consumers we should check everything we buy - is the packaging compostable? Recyclable? If not then don't buy it and complain to the company. Many scummy companies try to hide that information. If they are not clear about it, then they're hiding something. Don't support them.

Maybe one day we'll even go further than compostable packaging as the gold standard: what about edible packaging?

We sometimes highlight good companies. Here are some more!





Good Packaging And Companies



Lovechock
Yum: vegan chocolate. Bonus: all the packaging is 100% compostable! No waste! It was tasty too.
Lovechock responded with: "So happy to read about your enthusiasm for our chocolate and packaging. You’re the reason we get up every day, doing the work we do, aiming to deliver great products. Thanks for sharing the love!"





Amongst its products this company makes sandwich packs which are fully compostable. (We ate the sandwich, hence empty pack in picture!)




Another company with environmentally-friendly packaging. This one held cake.




Seed And Bean
Tasty organic chocolate, compostable wrap (even the foil!) We keep mentioning them because they are great.
Seed And Bean responded with: "Thanks for the award and the link! We love it when our hard work is recognised! Hope you enjoy the chocolate too!"




Gorgeous Welsh vegan luxury truffles in loads of flavours. And note how little packaging they use! (Better than Booja Booja in that regard, even though we also love the taste of Booja Booja truffles).
Hipo Hyfryd responded with: "Thank you. The whole aim of the packaging was to be minimalist, paper, predominantly from recyled things and in the end compostable. Always a joy to have it recognised by someone."



Room For Improvement

Don't get me wrong - I've bought many things from these companies. But their practices are below par in one way or another. Hopefully they can improve and get a gold medal next time.



It's pretty disingenuous (and unenvironmental) to use a bigger box than is necessary, where a big chunk of it is just empty area/square. It's the kind of trick lower-quality companies use. It's a shame, the chocolate brazil nuts themselves are tasty and vegan. But we're looking at packaging today.




Some of their chocolate is vegan, but two things annoyed us. Firstly, that they use non-recyclable plastic foil. Secondly, that they use vague wording to try and hide that fact. Note that they confusingly show a recycle logo right next to details of the "flow wrap", and nowhere state honestly that you have to throw it in the bin - meaning some people will add it to recycle bags and possibly pollute a batch of plastic.




The good: many of their breads are suitable for vegans, and we don't think they use palm oil, though this hasn't been confirmed. So a good Welsh bakery. But again, today it is about packaging. Their bread packaging said “Not suitable for recycling” which would be bad - millions of wrappers would be thrown in the bin. And yet, when we contacted them to complain, we were first told the packaging wasn't recyclable, but then we were told "I can confirm they are recyclable but they are not biodegradable" and "All PE bread bags are 100% recyclable and more often than not they will be used to make black bin liners." Hopefully they really are recyclable and this has been fixed now so the packaging shows that - we'll check sometime soon and hopefully be able to give a big green tick to Brace's. I could just eat some toast.



Bad Packaging And Companies
Actually, we're just going to complain about inaction. First we contacted the Environment Agency to ask this:
There is lots of guidance on labelling packaging here. However, it doesn't cover labelling what the packaging is made of and what to do with it after the contents have been removed. Nowadays there are many types of packaging that are not recyclable (and would ruin a batch of recycling if added to it); other types which are recyclable so should not go in a bin; and other types which are compostable, so should not go in a bin or recycling bag. Therefore it is key to know what you should do with the packaging, as an environmental issue, yet it seems that in the last few years more and more packaging is used which isn’t labelled in any way, and doesn’t even tell you what the packaging is made of, let alone what to do with it. Do you know why this is? Isn’t it something the Environment Agency should address? The lack of labelling (and therefore impossibility of identifying what to do with packaging), combined with the increased use of non-recyclable materials (e.g. see this), is really adding to the massive mountains of waste we are producing. It is an area where things seem to be getting worse, not better. Is the Environment Agency willing to enforce correct labelling on packaging, so that people can correctly assign it to bins/compost/recycling?

The response was basically "Although I can appreciate your concerns regarding this matter [blah blah] The Environment Agency regulate the waste industry [Yes, I already knew that] The packaging waste regulations were put in place to reduce the impact of waste from this industry [Yes, I already knew that too] You can read more about these below. We take these rules from the Essential Requirement Regulations [blah blah] If there is not a piece of legislation in place which covers this issue, there is nothing which we could enforce. I trust this helps to clarify our position."

It certainly does clarify their position. They're not doing much about it, which is why the situation is getting worse year on year. Why aren't they campaigning to ban all non-recyclable/compostable packaging, like France? Why aren't they pushing to make these things a priority, and proposing real solutions rather than mildly pointing at non-enforceable guidelines? This is why we don't see positive change.

Likewise the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) didn't inspire us with confidence in their response.

"Thank you for your email of 17 May in response to our reply to you of 17 May (Our ref: DWOE403981) about mandatory labelling of recycling/disposal advice on packaging. I am sorry you found our previous reply unsatisfactory.[Translation: stock corporate speak.]

The European Commission decision establishing the identification system for packaging materials (see: eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:31997D0129) provides a system of numbering and abbreviations to identify different packaging materials, including plastics. If a producer chooses to mark their packaging, they must use the system advocated in the above decision. We encourage manufacturers to use the markings where possible to aid the process of sorting and recycling plastic packaging. However, this system of marking and labelling of materials is aimed mainly at reprocessors to help them sort material so that it can be correctly treated before recycling. 

[Translation: nothing is enforced; package labelling isn't primarily to help people know whether to put packaging in the bin, or recycle it, or compost it, even though that's a vital part of the process.]

The Commission has made it clear that Member States that make the use of packaging recycling or identification symbols mandatory will be restricting the free movement of goods in contravention of Article 28 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This will result in infringement proceedings being taken against the Member State in breach, and therefore the UK cannot make the use of such symbols mandatory.

[Translation: we let this ridiculous situation come about where we think we would be penalised for doing anything good.]

We support the On-Pack Recycling Label scheme (see: www.wrap.org.uk/content/pack-recycling-label), which was developed by the British Retail Consortium, together with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), after detailed consideration of the many alternative methods of labelling packaging for consumers. The system tries to strike the right balance between telling consumers what will happen to each part of the packaging, and incentivising retailers to use packaging that is widely recycled. Members of the scheme display one of five labels on their packaging to indicate the recyclability of that material, defined by the local councils that can recycle it.

[Translation: it's all totally optional and we let manufacturers do what they want.]

While most plastic packaging materials are technically recyclable, not all councils will collect all plastic packaging for recycling. This is often because of local constraints, such as inadequate waste reprocessing infrastructure, or a lack of end markets for some types of recycled plastic. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) supports businesses willing to develop the recycling of mixed plastics (further information can be found at: www.wrap.org.uk/content/recycling-mixed-plastics) and is undertaking a significant work programme developing and securing sustainable end markets for recycled materials."

[Translation: imply that a company's choice to use bad materials is somehow the fault of others for not recycling them; and fade out with the only message being that they don't act on this issue, and companies can do what they want.]

We've run out of energy re-reading and translating all that depressing flannel. CIN needs chocolate.

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