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Opening our eyes to conscious change: packaging

Joanna Jensen

Joanna Jensen | 13 Aug, 2021 | 0 comments

So it’s out there. A timeline of what’s going to happen if we don’t change our behaviour now.

But are we even listening? Or are we all blindly carrying on as normal expecting someone else – anyone else – to make the changes to our lives that will stop the dramatic changes that we are seeing happening to our planet. 

I believe that we need to start making active, conscious choices. But it’s an overwhelming blur: do we buy an electric car which requires however many tonnes of carbon to be emitted for it to be made, or carry on in our petrol one for as long as it lasts? Do we start taking flights again or take advantage of modern technology and use Zoom more? Do we really need things delivered the same or next day, or could we carve some time into our lives to buy what we need seasonally and locally, as and when we need it?

We are all contributing to our planet’s demise, so if we try to be more conscious of what each of us can do to bring about positive change around sustainability and waste in our lives, it has to be a good thing. 

From small acorns grow oak trees, so if you fancy being an oak tree, read on.

I have so many thoughts on how we can all make small but meaningful change, I thought I would start with one which is an easy win for us all: packaging.

Because of what we do here, we know all about good, bad and indifferent packaging, but what I hear from my friends is that they just don’t know enough to make conscious choices on products that they buy.

They ask me what is easy to recycle, what has the largest carbon footprint to make, and what can they do to be better.

So here is a Smorgasbord of my thoughts on this: a mixture of advice and facts, ideas and observations. I hope that some resonate with you, answer questions you may have, provoke a change, de-mystify and simply help so you can do ‘your bit’. 

The bottom line is this: if we all aim to buy from brands and retailers that do our heavy lifting for us, then we are consciously doing our bit without much effort.

Some general thoughts and guidance on packaging:

If we want to start being more conscious of the packaging that surrounds the products we buy, there are a few questions we can ask when purchasing a product:

Is it excessive?

We’ve all received a giant delivery box during Covid, full of wrapping and nonsense, only to find it houses a single pack of batteries. Now there are fewer COVID restrictions, could we not pop down to a local shop for these everyday things? And because of the increased deliveries this past year there is a global lack of corrugate – cardboard to you and me – meaning more trees are being felled to make up the short fall. Why not go down to your local high street and shop from independent suppliers instead? 

Be there for someone who will not only value but needs your support, particularly after so many businesses have been devastated by COVID.

Is it recycled?

There are many symbols to advise and inform us that packaging is made from recycled plastic: checking before you buy may influence your decision on what you purchase.

Recycled packaging symbols that are clear include:

Is it recyclable?

Knowing that the packaging of a product when empty is easy for you to recycle should be a clear win and hopefully influence your buying decision. The Recycle Now website is a great resource for recycling knowledge and has information on what is and is not picked up by your local authority curb side collection.

So, understand what your local authority can recycle curb side and what they can recycle at your local tip. And if they’re rubbish at recycling, write and tell them - and your local MP - that they are! 

Clear recycling symbols for plastics look like this:

Plastic needs to be clean to be recycled, so always wash it out. And keep lids on unless told otherwise; they are too small on their own so will slip through a recycling line and end up in landfill as the recycling machines cannot detect their small size.

Recycling symbols can be confusing so here is some clarity on the most common ones:

Does it look recyclable but isn’t?

Sandwich cartons and takeaway coffee cups are examples of misleading packaging: whilst they may look like they are cardboard, they are in fact plastic lined, which means they aren’t recyclable. There are eco coffee cups which are industrially compostable, but sadly these are not used by the mainstream coffee companies or compostable at home. So bring your own, find a local supplier who is more eco-aware – or even better, invest in a really good coffee machine (for work/office) and make your own!

Did you know that almost all the pumps you find on toiletries products contain metal, meaning they can’t be recycled? This is because recycling facilities cannot separate the different materials (metals, glass and plastics) from each other meaning the pump ends up in landfill. If you need a pump on your product, look out for metal free, plastic only pumps which are starting to pop up around the place: we use them on Farmologie and are bringing them into Childs Farm products from September onwards. REN also use them on some of their packaging.

Plastic packaging quick facts

  1. Printed plastic of any sort cannot be recycled with ease in the UK. Cleaner plastics (i.e. those not contaminated by different inks) are easier to onwardly recycle and more valuable to recycling facilities. Plastics with labels are easier, as the recycling machines can scratch the labels off before chopping up the plastic.
  2. PCR means post-consumer recycled material or post-consumer resin: the % amount shown is how much of the plastic package is PCR. The rest of it will be made up of virgin plastic.
  3. Virgin plastic is plastic which has been made for the first time – think of it as being ‘brand new’. It takes 80% more carbon to produce a product made of virgin plastic than one made from PCR plastic.
  4. The majority of black plastic is impossible to recycle in the UK. This is because the scanners at recycling facilities cannot detect black plastic and so it ends up in landfill. Some producers of black plastic are adding a pigment to make it detectable by the scanners – however this depends on if the local facility is able to detect this pigment. Whether it contains the pigment or not, black recycled plastic darkens the PCR making it greyer and greyer and less recyclable and usable. The clearer and cleaner the plastic, the less contaminants and so more easy it is to recycle – this is why we use labels on our bottles and tubes rather than direct print to avoid extra colours and contamination in the recycling material.
  5. There are many initiatives in Developing Nations to collect ocean bound plastic – this is plastic that has been discarded near coastlines, which is then collected by individuals or teams, taken to depots for cleaning and chipping to be re-used in plastic production. We use a system called POP – Prevented Ocean Plastic – an initiative in Indonesia which gives us our 100% PCR recycled plastic bottles and 70% PCR recycled plastic tubes, as well as creating employment for the local communities. Sadly, with a population of 226 million in Indonesia drinking bottled water and no local authority or government waste management, there is plenty of plastic available.
  6. Plastic refill pouches are only specialist recyclable because whilst they use less plastic, they are very hard to recycle. Use refills in larger HDPE or PET plastic bottles which are curb-side recyclable nationwide.
  7. To make sure you are recycling as much as you can, pop a bag on the back of your bathroom door or if you have room, have another bin to ensure all your loo roll centres, shampoo bottles etc can go on to have another life and reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Specialist recycling

TerraCycle is a company that claims it can recycle the ‘non-recyclable’ – so everything from pens to pouches, crisp packets to bread bags. You can find a local collection point for this sort of waste through their website.

This is great – but wouldn’t it be better if these companies used more mainstream recycled and recyclable packaging instead?

If you want to find out more about Childs Farm sustainability and environmental policies have a look at our ESG page on our websites. 

ESG stands for Environmental and Social Governance and relates to how a business works to be more sustainable, more responsible, and more aware of people, planet, and products.

At the end of last year, we submitted our application to become a Certified B Corporation. B Corps are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. There is a backlog on applications currently, but we are hoping to have some news on this shortly.

This ‘stuff’ already really matters to us, and you will see from our sustainability timeline we have always been best in class in our category; it seems nuts to be selling products for children if we aren’t considering the impact on their future. And we of course are constantly planning to be even better, always looking at the most sensible solution for us and for you. 

So let us help you to do better too by giving you products that have done the heavy lifting for you. Know that every ingredient in Childs Farm and Farmologie has been responsibly and sustainably sourced, that our packaging is between 70-100% PCR, that all of our Farmologie pumps are metal free and that all of our Childs Farm pumps are moving to being metal free by the end of 2021, and that we never compromise on animal welfare and are members of the CFI Leaping Bunny programme.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas of how you think we can do better, so please drop me a line if you think we can improve or even need some advice.

In the meantime, let’s all try to be actively active in making changes in our homes to make a change for our children as best we can.

    

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Joanna Jensen

Joanna Jensen