Plastic is getting a bit of a bum rap right now. And justifiably so. We use far too much of it and in a very wasteful way.
Plastic, however, is an incredibly useful packaging material for certain applications. Typically, about 5% of a food product’s green house gas emissions are linked to the packaging. So if you are worried about your footprint you need to worry more about the actual food than the packaging it is in. Did you know that quinoa, for example, has half the carbon footprint of rice? Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to reduce your impact on the planet.
But, if we can avoid plastic packaging or reduce the amount of plastic we should.
We did a lifecycle carbon footprint analysis on our kids range: (refer to the image above)
As you can see we come out way better than the competition. By having a single plastic pouch, not wrapped with unnecessary cardboard, we obviously save on packaging. Our plastic pouch comes in at about 5g of plastic, whereas the two products in plastic dishes have over 30g of plastic (and a cardboard sleeve too). That is already an 80% reduction in plastic relative to the Hipp product. But where we really smash the competition is in the formulation of the recipe. By using plant-based protein we perform better than the others, and with quinoa having a far lower carbon footprint than rice, we smash Tilda too.
For a pre-cooked product like our Express and Kids pouches, we have three possible materials to use. Tin (as in can of baked beans), glass (as in a jar of gherkins), or plastic. Think of the weight of transporting all those empty tins and glass jars to our factory- the carbon footprint + pollution. Given our plastic pouches are flat, we can pack about the same number onto a single pallet that would require a full truck for tins or glass jars. Once the product is made, a glass jar also adds significant weight to the product, meaning transportation pollution is far higher on the finished product too.
But hey plastic isn’t all about carbon, right? Right.
It’s about pollution and plastic ending up in the environment and oceans. For what it’s worth we offset our plastic (much like a carbon offset) with Repurpose, so every kilo of plastic we put on the market we remove an identical amount from the environment. More here
Where it is technically feasible, we also make our plastic packaging recyclable, like on our grains to cook. We were really excited about getting some recyclable packaging for our Express range, which was supposed to launch this summer after years of development with our pouch manufacture. We had ordered our first 50,000 pouches and they had arrived at the factory. But just before we were about to put some into production, we received a call from the manufacturer not to use them as some technical problems had cropped up at another client. Back to the drawing board for that one.
So we will do our damned best, but it’s impossible to be perfect.
And sometimes its non-intuitive. A single use paper bag has 4X the carbon footprint of a single use plastic bag (Source BBC- the Environment Agency). It’s not quite so straight forward- plastic pollution versus global warming. Turtle or the polar bear?