Rethinking plastic packaging

Let’s talk about recycling, packaging & (food) waste + Introducing our new packagings!


Plastic. You can find it everywhere. In the supermarket, but nowadays also in your street, park, and ocean. Why is everything wrapped in plastic? And what are the alternatives? We went on a journey to find sustainable packagings for our products, with the same benefits as plastic. However, that is harder than you think... In this post, we’ll give the latest and most important facts about plastic packaging, explain why packaging is so important, and take you on our journey to our new packagings. What is the best packaging for your fresh vegetables and herbs, prioritizing the best conservation of the product, but also has the smallest possible environmental footprint? Lastly, we’ll explain what you can do to be a pioneer in reducing your food waste and packaging trash!



A not so plastic-fantastic world

Worldwide plastics production reached about 367 million tonnes in 2020, a slight decrease of 0.3% compared to 2019. The share of plastic packaging as a share of global packaging volumes has increased from 17% to 25% driven by strong growth in the global plastic packaging market of 5% annually. This puts you, us, everybody in a not so ‘plastic-fantastic world’. However, some good news: All plastic packaging must be recyclable or reusable in the EU by 2030. However, Europeans still generate 25 million tons of plastic waste every year and 26% of the total volume is from plastic packaging... So, how big is the problem with plastic packaging? And what are the sustainable alternatives?



The plastic packaging reality. Some alarming facts:

  • Only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling.

  • And only 2% of the plastic packaging is recycled into the same or similar-quality applications

  • 72% of plastic packaging is not recovered at all

  • 40% ends up in a landfill or incineration

  • 32% leaks out of the collection system -> read: disappears in nature: your street, park or ocean.


Figure 1: Global Flows of plastic packaging materials in 2013


*1 Closed-loop reculing: Recycling of plastics into the same or similar-quality applications

*2 Cascaded recycling: Recycling of plastics into other, lower value applications

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2016



Why is packaging so important? And why plastics?

So, why don’t we just skip the packaging of fresh vegetables and herbs? The main reasons for wrapping food in packaging are to offer protection to the food, enhance shelf-life (keep food longer fresh) and reduce food waste. For example, shrink wrap packaging around cucumber reduced the weight loss, retained the freshness, color, and firmness of cucumber. The storage life of shrink-wrapped cucumber can be extended up to 15 days!

And, if you are on the search for an inexpensive, lightweight, and high-performing packaging material, you mostly will end up with … yes plastic. Plastic keeps food longer fresh, reducing food waste and due to its low weight, it reduces fuel consumption in transportation.


So, the packaging is important. However, here at Groots, we do not want to contribute to the global plastic problem. Taking this into account, we went on a journey to find the best packaging for our Groots products!



What are the other options? Our journey to the perfect packaging

Here at groots, we produce plants still with the roots, still alive, so you can enjoy our plants fresher than ever. Besides, we also offer rootless products and we want to make sure you also get them fresher than ever. To find the most suitable packaging we have taken into account many criteria to obtain the best results:

  • Sustainable materials

  • Easily recyclable

  • The smallest possible environmental footprint

  • Prioritizing the best conservation of the product

  • Takes food waste into account

  • Make sustainability not a luxury: Price of the packaging that competes with the traditional agriculture products, to keep the price of our products as low as possible.

  • And your opinion!


So, we have tested all the existing packagings that were on the market, from packaging from sugarcane, recycled plastic, paper, and go so on. And if we mean all we mean all:



To provide a clear overview, we have listed the major minus and plus points of the options that we found the most viable.


Cardboard

  • (+) Easy to separate at home

  • (+) Easy to separate in recycling plants

  • (-) Cardboard is not waterproof, so not suitable for the cold chain

  • (-) As it is not waterproof, it allows the product to get wet and the product gets rotten easily.

  • (-) Cardboard is not seen through, so it can generate mistrust by not seeing the product you are buying


Recycled plastic

  • (+) Easy to separate at home

  • (+) Easy to separate in recycling plants

  • (+) Lower carbon footprint in its recycling process due to its lightweight

  • (-) Bigger carbon footprint in its manufacturing process

  • (-) Comes from a non-renewable source


PLA - Vegetable-based plastic material

  • (+) Technically it is carbon neutral (it comes from renewable materials such as corn, which absorbs carbon in their growing process)

  • (+) Lower carbon footprint in its manufacturing process

  • (+) Biobased and degradable

  • (-) Higher carbon footprint in your recycling process (needs high temperatures to dispose of (55-77 celsius)

  • (-) Confusion by the consumer on how to recycle the material, due to the fact it looks like plastic, but it belongs in the organic container.


After our intensive research, we were also curious which packaging you, our grooters, likes the best! So, we let you choose how you liked your lettuce packed. You could choose between container-shaped packaging and bag-shaped packaging. Those were the final results:

  • 22% container

  • 78% bag




Taking into account all the criteria, we found packaging from PLA and cardboard the most suitable. Only for our small containers with herbs, we use a thin PET plastic film, due to the fact PLA plastic was not available. We believe that strategies and solutions which prevent the leakage of plastic to your street, park, and ocean are the best to keep on implementing. PLA ensures that the cardboard becomes waterproof and to overcome the negative effects in the recycling process of PLA, we only apply a small amount of PLA. The small amount of PLA is easier to break down in industrial compost facilities compared with one solid block of PLA. Besides, we provide on the packaging and at the end of this blog clear information on how to dispose our packaging correctly!



Finally, let us introduce you to our new packagings!:




Groots + Imperfectus

During our search for the perfect packaging for our Groots products, we also found a wonderful new partner: Imperfectus! While testing all the existing packagings that were on the market, we believed that we found a perfect cardboard cone for our plants with roots. So, we ordered a lot of these packagings! However, if you paid attention, you know by now that just cardboard is not waterproof. So the cardboard packaging became wet and weak after a few days. So, not so perfect... What to do with this big stock of not-so-perfect packagings?