We’ve all been there. It’s Friday night, you’ve just enjoyed a takeaway pizza and now you don’t quite know what to do with the greasy box you’re left with. Although you’re pretty sure it’s recyclable, you think perhaps the grease means it no longer will be. You may then think it’s best to pop it into the recycling, to give it the best chances of avoiding landfill. Better to do it this way round, and they can always separate it out at the recycling plant, right?
These are the thought processes that many of us go through when we aren’t quite sure whether we can recycle something. This act of popping something into the recycling and hoping for the best is known as “wishcycling.”
It is certainly understandable, and our intentions are always good. We want to be eco-friendly, and we want our packaging and waste to be reused.
However, unfortunately, whilst we may think it’s harmless to err on the side of optimism and throw the maybe-recyclable-but-maybe-not item into the recycling, this can actually cause a lot of issues down the line.
Is It Actually Recyclable?
We may think we have a good idea of what is recyclable and what isn’t. However, things can actually be quite complicated.
For example, paper and cardboard are recyclable, but a lot of packaging may also involve a coating that then renders paper unrecyclable. This coating may be plastic or chemical based. For example, paper receipts seem as though they should be recyclable, but the thermal coating on them known as bisphenol A (BPA) can be harmful to the environment. So, if a receipt ended up in the recycling stream, it could contaminate other products.
Similarly, packaging that has become dirtied by food, like a greasy pizza box, is no longer recyclable.
So, what would actually happen if we throw one of these items into the recycling?
Contamination of Recyclable Materials
As mentioned above, a key issue with this is the risk of contaminating other recyclable materials. An unwashed jar could risk contaminating an entire load of recyclable items.
This contamination can create unclean conditions, which could then attract pests. Further, it means that processed recyclable loads become less suitable for sale. Contamination of a load of recyclable materials, even by one item, could mean a buyer would turn the entire shipment away. This could lead to increased wastage both in terms of material and energy.
Overall, this could reduce the profitability of the recycling industry as a whole, and could lead to increase costs for recycling.
Items that are not supposed to be thrown in the recycling can also cause damage to the machines at recycling plants. They can cause equipment to jam or even break down entirely.
It is also important to note that you should never put your recycling in a plastic bag, as these can cause serious complications that can cost thousands.
Not only are these mistakes pricey, but they put workers in danger with fire risks. They may also have to hand pick broken glass out of the assembly line, which is another health hazard for them.
Having to sift through and remove unsuitable items from the recycling slows the entire process down at recycling plants. Employees have to hand pick these items out, which makes the entire thing a lot more labour intensive, and again could lead to increased costs.
How can we prevent wishcycling?
A key thing that companies can do to ensure wishcycling is a thing of the past, is to make sure the recycling labels on products are clear and easy to understand.
Our eco-friendly products at Field & Fare are entirely recyclable, making life easy for the consumer. For example, our Earthpouch is completely paper based, and the natural barrier used means the whole thing can be recycled through the paper stream. This leaves no second guessing that it can in fact be placed safely in the recycling box with no negative consequences.
In our own homes, a good place to start is to always ensure we read the labels on packaging, and never assume something is recyclable even if it is made of paper or card.
Having read labels, always ensure non-recyclable parts of products are removed, and if the packaging has been in contact with food, make sure to wash it well. If it cannot be cleaned, then it should go in landfill or kept for other uses.
If in doubt about a product, it may be worth following the “reduce and reuse” mantra, and try and reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging you are purchasing in the first place. You could then also find other uses for packaging around the house, for example keeping jars to reuse for storage purposes.
It’s great to know that people see recycling as important, and hopefully by understanding why it’s crucial to be sure before popping something in the recycling bin, we can make the whole process more efficient.
ELLIE BALDERSON, MARKETING
Our Earthpouches are a plastic-free, sustainable alternative to traditional plastic packaging. Made entirely out of paper, your clients are able to simply recycle them from home through the paper stream. So, they are a great way to represent your products in an eco-friendly way, and to demonstrate that your business takes environmental issues seriously.
Earthpouches are designed to keep food fresh and extend shelf life, and they contain a barrier on the inside, meaning that they are suitable for moist foods as well as dry.
Not only this, but they look extremely stylish and unique, giving a rustic and eye-catching look to your products.
But, since we offer both standard and high barrier Earthpouches, how do you know which one you need for your product? To answer this, we have put together a quick guide to help you make your decision.
Standard Barrier Earthpouches
Our standard range of Earthpouches are suitable for foods that are not too sensitive to moisture or oxygen. This covers things like granola, dark chocolate, flour and sugar.
High Barrier Earthpouches
The high barrier Earthpouches offer even more protection against moisture and oxygen, and are suitable for foods such as milk chocolate, vitamins, protein powders, dry pet food, nuts, tea and coffee.
We have recently completed a project with Yallah coffee, showing that these higher barrier pouches can be a great packaging option for coffee, especially for some of the country's smaller coffee roasters. It is worth noting that we cannot include valves in the pouches, which is sometimes a requirement with coffee.
Yallah simply recommended their customers to transfer the coffee to a tin, once opened, if they were not planning on drinking the coffee too quickly.
We hope this sparks your imagination for the different uses of Earthpouches. If you have any questions on which pouch may be right for your particular product, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 has no doubt been an extremely strange year for all of us. As this year comes to a close, we’re looking ahead to Christmas day, and thinking about how best you can help your customers have a great day. (after all, we all certainly deserve it!)
One of the biggest stresses that Christmas brings with it is that all-important Christmas dinner. Even the most natural cooks amongst us can feel a great deal of pressure when this responsibility falls on their shoulders.
But, not to worry. Here at Field & Fare, we have put together a guide on how our products can make cooking Christmas dinner as easy (and, dare I say it, fun!) as possible. By utilising our innovative cooking and roasting bags, you can give your customers the option to step away from the stove and join in the festivities, safe in the knowledge that the results will be perfect. If you work in hospitality or retail, our bags could be a saving grace, making your job easier when it comes to giving your clients great meals with no fuss.
What’s more, there will be less washing up! Everyone surely has that one their Christmas list…
Although the veg is certainly not the most exciting part of a Christmas dinner, it is still an integral part of the spread. So, we believe it should be done right.
Offering your customers a steam cooking bag with their vegetables will help them to achieve evenly-cooked, flavoursome vegetables every time. Not only are you adding value to them, but pre-packaging an array of seasonal vegetables, perhaps with the addition of some seasonings, is a great way to add margin to your products.
The steam cooking bags really are so simple. The client can choose their vegetables, add seasonings, sauces or even flavoured butter, and you can seal it for them to pop into the microwave. Another benefit here is that, if the oven is full of things already, the microwave can be a great space-saving option. Advise the customer that they don’t even need to pierce the film as the bags will vent by themselves to relieve pressure.
Now, for the pigs in blankets. The nation is passionate about these wonderful sides and we are no exception. If you’re a butcher, this is your time to shine! Why not go the extra mile for your customers and present your pigs in blankets in our second kind of cooking bag, which is suitable for the oven or grill. Our bags ensure the sausages will cook through well and still get that lovely browning on the outside, and your customers will really appreciate how easy you’ve made it for them.
Our cooking bags are also suitable to be refrigerated, so you can prep everything for your clients, and they can simply keep it ready for an even smoother Christmas day!
The Main Event
Let’s talk turkey (or any other meat for the less traditional out there). People want moist, tender meat and a beautiful, crispy outside.
Our roasting bags take the guesswork out of cooking and means your customers can relax, safe in the knowledge that the turkey will really live up to expectation. If you’re selling meat, why not supply a roasting bag with it and impress your clients with your forethought.
The turkey skin will brown without even removing the bag, as our technology ensures it will do this anyway. Your clients will certainly thank you when they’re sipping a glass of prosecco rather than having to continually check the turkey. What a great way to gain more customer loyalty!
We hope we have provided you with some inspiration on how to up your game this Christmas, and the team at Field & Fare wish you a very happy Christmas and hope you have a wonderful 2021.
ELLIE BALDERSON, MARKETING
A recent study by Which? has shown that many of our favourite foods such as cheese, crisps and chocolate are not packaged in recyclable packaging. For many, it has come as a surprise that well-known brands have not yet committed to sustainable alternatives.
Which? looked into 89 of the UK’s most well-known grocery brands and has found that most of them are coming up short with their environmental efforts.
The two main issues are that packaging is either totally non-recyclable (or extremely difficult to recycle) or, where packaging is recyclable, labels are unclear and confusing.
Which? found that, of the products they studied, only 34% of packaging was totally recyclable, leaving a huge two thirds of packets condemned to landfill. The worst culprit was found to be crisp packets, as only 3% of them were recyclable.
Similarly, only one third of the chocolate wrappers tested were recyclable. Mars’ M&Ms, along with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars, Twirl Bites and Bitsa Wispa were amongst those that were found not to be recyclable from home at all. Bad news for those of us with a sweet tooth!
There were also issues in the world of cheese, as snack packs of Cathedral City and Babybel are packaged in plastic net bags. These are not only hard to recycle, but can cause issues if they become tangled in recycling machinery.
A Lack of Labelling
An additional problem is that where products were able to be recycled from home, the packaging lacked the appropriate labelling and directions on how to do so. Which? found that 41% of the recyclable packaging had no relevant labelling. Ambiguous labelling poses a real barrier to effective recycling at home, and it is a shame that recyclable packaging may end up in landfill because consumers are not being directed correctly.
Confusing labelling has long been an issue within the packaging industry, leaving consumers unsure of how to dispose of items correctly, and in some cases even being misled by vague labels into believing that non-recyclable products can be recycled. A 2019 study from RECOUP found that despite having good intentions, recycling efforts were being blocked by confusing labels.
When it comes to recycling, it may surprise people to know that there is no nationwide strategy. Local authorities accept and process different materials differently. This means that a household in one area may be able to recycle something whereas another household in a different area cannot. So, certain labels are only applicable to specific areas. A recycling sign does not necessarily mean a packet will be accepted for recycling by your particular local authority.
Clearly, the waters surrounding packaging labels are very muddy, and following their study, Which? has appealed to the government for clearer labelling. This will hopefully make things easier for consumers to understand whether packaging is recyclable, and how they need to recycle it. There is also more light at the end of the tunnel, as the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) has launched its new recycling label rules, with an aim to move the majority of packaging into a binary labelling system: “Recycle” or “Don’t Recycle”. This is to be implemented over the next 3 years.
So What’s The Good News?
Happily, Which? also found an area that is excelling in being eco-friendly. When it came to fizzy drinks, the packaging was all found to be 100% recyclable and the labelling on all products was correct.
Further, many of the companies involved in the study have made commitments to make more sustainable choices. Nestle is committing to making 100% of it’s packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. Similarly, Kellogg’s, who make Pringles, have promised to make their packaging 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. They have recently started trialling 90% paper-based Pringles tubes in select Tesco stores.
Additionally, Babybel are setting up a UK and Ireland partnership with waste disposal company TerraCycle. So, it does seem that larger brands are taking notice of the increasing pressure from consumers to use recyclable packaging. A greener future could well be on the horizon. ELLIE BALDERSON, MARKETING
In an increasingly eco-conscious world, plastic is falling out of favour with consumers. Single-use plastics that are often used in food packaging, are being dropped. The top choice for its replacement? Paper.
Plastic has been singled out as a key culprit impacting our planet negatively. It has also become a very emotional issue amongst consumers, as we are constantly seeing distressing images of plastic rings around the necks of turtles, and dead whales with stomachs full of plastic. Not only does plastic harm wildlife and cause pollution due to its longevity, but the process of creating plastic contributes to carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels.
So, I want to see how paper measures up to plastic, both in terms of function and regarding sustainability. Can paper achieve the same results as plastic when used in packaging, particularly for food? Is it realistic at this stage to go entirely plastic-free in favour of paper-based alternatives? Is paper truly the eco-friendly hero it has been hailed as?
I want to try and get the most balanced view possible of both materials, and there is no doubt that both plastic and paper have their pros and cons.
To evaluate the sustainability of paper and plastic, it’s important to look at the whole life cycle: from sourcing, to processing and production, and then to end of life.
Paper and Plastic Production
Regarding its creation, plastic is notably unsustainable. It is made from non-renewable fossil fuels, with around 4% of the world’s oil supplies being used for plastic production. There are also considerable CO2 emissions when plastic is made. About three tonnes of CO2 is created for every tonne of plastic made, compared with around 0.8 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of paper. From this perspective, paper is clearly the more sustainable option.
This said, paper production is not always entirely eco-friendly. A huge amount of water goes into paper production. According to the BBC, you need between two and 13 litres of water just to make an A4 piece of paper. Further, a huge amount of energy goes into paper production, too.
It is also important to look at where paper is sourced from. Many plastic lobbyists have criticised paper as contributing to global deforestation. Indeed, paper that is sourced from the world’s forests would have a negative impact on the planet as it would contribute to the destruction of habitats and mean that there are fewer trees to absorb CO2. However, much of the paper that is manufactured today is sourced from controlled plantations that are solely for this purpose, and so it does not contribute to deforestation. Products with FSC certifications mean that the trees used are from a sustainable source.
So, when we compare the production of both plastic and paper, it is clear that paper has the environmental edge. Although it is not perfect, paper can be sourced from sustainable sources and leads to lower CO2 emissions.
End of Life
By ‘end of life’, I mean what happens to these materials after use. Can they be recycled, or will they end up in landfill or our oceans?
When it comes to recyclability, paper is a clear stand out. Paper is easily recycled through a relatively simple process of repulping, and it is much easier to create 100% recycled paper products than 100% recycled plastic products.
Whilst a lot of plastic is indeed recyclable, there is still a large amount of plastic packaging that cannot be recycled at all. Have a look at my blog on household grocery brands for more on this. Further, the process of recycling plastic tends to be more complicated than paper. It involves heat moulding and blowing, and plastic can be contaminated with things like ink, and so recycled plastic is less consistent than new plastic. Additionally, unstable resin can break machines as its reaction to heat can be unpredictable, which can lead to wasted resources. For this reason, manufacturers need to find the right balance between recycled and virgin plastic, and it’s harder to create an 100% recycled plastic product.
This is not to say that recyclable plastic is not a good option, as it is much superior to the alternative, however paper is certainly the more sustainable option from this perspective.
Plastic is very good at doing its job. It is strong, durable and flexible. In the food industry, it is a vital part of extending the shelf life of consumable products, and its propensity to be completely transparent is a bonus in allowing customers to see what they are buying before purchase.
Therefore, to be a viable replacement for plastic, paper needs to be able to fulfil these same functions (unless there is a total overhaul of the supply chain and the way we buy food). To successfully meet these criteria, paper usually needs to have a coating or barrier, to ensure that it can maintain rigidity when filled with moist food and products. This is also important for keeping food fresh.
A main challenge of switching to paper is that it can mean it compromises the shelf life of food, which some argue may lead to an increase in food waste. In this case, we would essentially be replacing one environmental problem with a new one. So, it is vital that paper packaging has an effective coating. Further, this coating must not interfere with the recycling process.
There is also the issue of transparency, as customers like to see the food they are about to purchase. This can be difficult to achieve with paper, although some touch-transparent products are now emerging, where you can see the food inside when in contact with paper.
At present, then, there is still work to be done on ensuring that using paper in packaging does not compromise the effectiveness of packaging.
What Are We doing?
At farepac, we are committed to developing eco-friendly alternatives to plastic packaging. For example, our Earthpouch is made entirely of paper, with a coating on the inside that acts as a barrier. This means food stays fresh and the packaging stays intact, and the pouches are fully recyclable. We also ensure that the paper we use is FSC certified, so our customers can be confident that it is sourced sustainably.
We continue to find innovative ways to incorporate paper, without sacrificing shelf life and freshness.
So, Can Paper Replace Plastic?
Whilst it is not inherently 100% eco-friendly, paper is a more sustainable option than plastic. Being in a climate emergency means that sustainability must be prioritised, however this needs to be done carefully, ensuring that material switches do not cause a huge rise in food waste. It is also important to ensure that paper-based products are sourced from sustainable places and can disposed of effectively at the end of the life cycle.
It wouldn’t be realistic to say that paper can replace plastic entirely at this time. But perhaps in the future, with further development, it could become a much more viable option. The next steps that need to take place are ensuring that paper products fulfil the same needs as plastic products in terms of shelf life extension and preventing food going off. It is also important for paper packaging to be able to maintain its shape in different conditions.
Farepac have already created some excellent paper-based products that are able to replace plastics, which is a huge step in the right direction. We will continue to facilitate these sustainable switches as we make further developments.
ELLIE BALDERSON, MARKETING
A number of years ago, there was talk of the death of independent shops. It was believed that the likes of high street butchers and greengrocers were going to become extinct in the wake of supermarkets. The pull of supermarkets was based around price and ease of being able to buy everything you need from one place. However, more recently there has been a resurgence in demand for local, independent food shops.
The Millennial Effect
I moved to East London last year, and found myself surrounded by many independent shops, butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers. One only needs to take a 10-minute stroll through Hackney to realise that independent is in vogue. As someone with a keen interest in food and produce, this has been fantastic. I cherish my Sunday afternoon walks to the butchers to pick up something for a roast, and I love the huge selection of fresh veg in my closest greengrocer.
I am not unique in my love of all things independent, and my fellow millennials have played a large part in making small businesses and shops popular again. As a generation, millennials are food-focussed and very conscious of quality. Taste is no longer the only factor to consider, and food choices are influenced by politics, health concerns and personal ethics. We care where food comes from and what it is packaged in, and transparency is vital. As the largest working generation at present, millennial tastes have a huge impact on the food industry. Of course, millennials are not alone in this shift towards local and independent shops, however they are arguably the most visible due to social media usage, and I believe they have played a large part in the step away from supermarket chains.
Why Do People Love Independent?
There are several reasons why people may choose to shop in a local, independent food shop as opposed to a large supermarket. As discussed above, a huge part of this comes down to transparency and traceability. People like to know what they are eating, and where it has come from. Supermarket goods are supplied from all over the world, whereas many smaller food shops often focus on locally sourced produce. This can put consumers’ minds at rest and also aligns with the desire that many have to reduce their carbon footprints. If the steak you buy from an independent butcher’s was sourced from a farm 5 miles down the road, you are reassured that it has not contributed to excessive carbon emissions through shipping and transport.
As well as locally sourced products, independent farm shops and delis often stock products that people are unable to find in the supermarket. A rise in craft breweries, small cheesemakers and niche food start-ups mean there are a huge variety of products other than large household brands found in supermarkets, and many people enjoy discovering them.
Enterprise For London has also found that people enjoy the customer service and sense of community that comes with shopping at independent stores. When shopping in smaller food shops, customers have a lot more interaction with shopkeepers and can expect a more personal service. Further, the high street butcher or fishmonger feels like the centre of a community, and people feel a sense of loyalty towards their local shops.
What Has Changed With COVID-19?
As much as we are all tired of talking about coronavirus, the pandemic has greatly impacted shopping habits. The reasons already outlined for choosing independent stores are now compounded by post-pandemic mentalities, and we find new reasons for wanting to shop locally.
AHDB reported that in the first 12 weeks after lockdown, an extra £45 million was spent at butcher’s shops. This represents an uplift of 39% from 14th June. Similarly, The Guardian reported that independent grocery stores experienced a 63% surge in trade as people shifted to local shops during lockdown. A fishmongers in Notting Hill even reported a 200% rise in sales during the nationwide quarantine. These numbers staggering and are concrete evidence of a huge change in shopper behaviour resulting from COVID-19.
So, what were the reasons for the changes? Unsurprisingly, a main reason was fear of crowds. Naturally, this led to a huge spike in online shopping, but it also caused people to want to shop at much smaller establishments than a typical supermarket. Many small shops only allowed one or two visitors in at a time, which increased consumer confidence. Also, you can often see how many people are in a smaller shop just by glancing through the window. This allowed people to decide whether to enter or not if they were concerned about contact with others. Similarly, supermarkets were often in the press for having extensive queues. Many people felt that these could be avoided by shopping at their local, independent stores. This way they could save time and avoid others simultaneously.
Product availability was another reason for the switch to local independents. There were many cases of shortages in staple products at big supermarket chains, and several items had restrictions placed on them. People found that availability was less of an issue when visiting their local farm shops or butchers, and this impacted shopping preferences.
So, the pandemic has added to the myriad of reasons why people prefer to shop at independent shops. However, will this surge last once the effects of COVID-19 wear off? The YouGov Consumer Tracker, conducted in April, found that half of customers say they will proactively seek out British product once restrictions are eased. This could suggest that many people are still prioritising local produce with low food miles.
Perhaps the pandemic has served to cement a love of independent shops based around sustainability, quality, traceability, and customer service. ELLIE BALDERSON, MARKETING