Back in March of 2020, we switched all our Overnight Breakfast packets over to post-consumer recycled material. I explained how we came to our choice of material in length in a previous blog and I also promised to keep our customers up-to-date as we continue to push for more sustainable solutions.
Last weekend, I went to the Natural Foods Expo in Philadelphia. After exploring packaging solutions at the expo, I walked away feeling that Brave’s post-consumer recycled packets are still the best option for the planet. With my promise to keep our customers up-to-date in mind, I want to update you on the latest in sustainable packaging coming out of that weekend.
My trip to the Natural Foods Expo in Philadelphia
I went to the Natural Foods Expo with two main goals:
- Find organic ingredient suppliers who are transparent about their sourcing practices (more to come on this in the coming months).
- Get the latest download on the sustainable packaging industry and make sure that Brave’s current post-consumer recycled bags (bags made from recycled plastics) are still the best option for the planet.
After walking the expo for a few hours and trying a bunch of delicious samples, I set off to find some packaging companies. I stumbled upon Eagle Flexible Packaging and began chatting with their VP of Technical Support, Wayne. I knew right away I had found the guy to fill me in on the latest advances in sustainable packages.
Here’s the latest on sustainable packaging
There remain three options for flexible sustainable packaging. When I say flexible packaging, think Brave packets, zip lock bags, chip bags etc. - anything that’s flexible when you move it in your hands.
- Post consumer recyclable
- The majority of residential areas cannot process compostable flexible packaging in their green bins. This means that compostable flexible packaging must be brought to an industrial site to be processed.
- Wayne did mention that innovation is happening in the compostable packaging industry and believes a ‘backyard approved’ technology, one that can sufficiently break down in backyard compost pile, will be available in the next 5 years.
Post consumer recycled materials
- Recycling centers still cannot process flexible packaging. So, if your flexible package says recyclable on it as all those Amazon mailers do, this means that it’s ‘store-drop off recyclable’. It needs to be brought to a store (typically grocery stores) with drop-off bins.
- Putting flexible packing into your standard recycling bin is no better than throwing it in the trash.
When recycled from store-drop-off locations, these plastics are then repurposed and mainly turned into composite decking by companies like Trex.
- Unfortunately, every packaging company we’ve spoken with is skeptical that consumers are actually taking the time to bring their packets to the closest drop-off location. I’m not confident that recyclable flexible packaging is delivering on its stated promise.
Other important newsStates like Maine and Oregon are passing bills that will make businesses pay fees for the packaging they put into the market. The fees will depend on the level of sustainability (more sustainable = less fees and less sustainable = more fees). This money will be used to help pay for recycling and compostable programs and help update facility technologies. Essentially it shifts the cost of dealing with difficult to recycle materials from local governments to the businesses that are producing the materials.
- This is the material that Brave uses for our packaging
- The material is made from recycled plastics, primarily milk cartons
- Wayne confirmed that this material is the best option of the three because both recyclable and compostable have major flaws which impedes their efficacy as a sustainable solution.
- For local residents it means their tax dollars will stop footing the bill for businesses producing the waste.
- For local governments it means they can spend tax dollars in new ways.
- For businesses it means they can either pay for more expensive sustainable packaging upfront or eat the cost later on.
As always, we will continue to watch closely for the day when our recycling systems can accept flexible packaging and when compostable technology improves or when something totally new comes along!