It's 2022, and a new year brings opportunities for a fresh start. We wipe the slate clean, ready for the challenges that lie ahead. While January is still very much winter territory, we know that spring will be upon us in the blink of an eye, signalling a new season and the rebirth of nature after some chillingly cold months.
We've always been honest about our journey when it comes to sustainability, and we are growing every day. Developing a solid sustainability policy is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's a job we take very seriously. When creating our sustainability policies and how we conduct ourselves, we like to dig a little deeper.
Going green is easy, but when it comes to practical implementation, there are many challenges, and that's not an excuse. We aim to do better every day and are constantly looking for environmentally friendly alternatives that will help us be kinder to the environment while maintaining our product's quality and integrity.
We're currently gaining some very exciting certifications that we hope to be able to tell you more about in the coming issues of Sweet Talk, but until then, let's talk about some general misconceptions regarding packaging. As a confectionery brand, we're always looking for exciting and innovative packaging ideas and ways to help balance our carbon footprint and act more sustainably, but it's not as easy as you might think.
If we mention the word plastic in a sustainability conversation, you might be quick to point out how ‘bad’ plastic is, but this material has its uses and now plastic can be recycled too. Furthermore, the infrastructure of plastic production means that there is no shortage of supply, and it doesn’t directly use up natural resources in its production as it can now also be recycled safely; it has endless possibilities.
Regarding food packaging, it is essential to remember that not just anything can be used to package food; we have ‘food grade’ packaging, which means it’s a safe environment to house edible products. This adds extra challenges when creating sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging.
So, what are the alternatives? Paper is, of course, a strong alternative to plastic, easily recyclable and a natural resource, it seems like an obvious choice, but while there are specific spaces where this is very doable, we also have to remember that paper is a finite resource. We have to grow enough trees to satisfy the demand for paper products, which also adds pressure to growers and the planet, as the paper will need to come from sustainable sources. Is it feasible to replace all plastic with paper without adding further environmental strain?
Glass is another packaging material made from natural resources and is often seen as more environmentally friendly than plastics, but did you know that glass doesn’t naturally disintegrate for hundreds of years! That means it shouldn’t go to a landfill and must be recycled. Now, glass recycling in countries such as the UK is reasonably developed, but recycling glass also increases your carbon footprint, hindering the movement towards carbon-neutral production. That doesn’t mean that glass is not environmentally friendly, but it isn’t all quite as clear-cut as it seems.
Significant developments are being made in the packaging industry, but it is certainly a process and a journey. Sustainable packaging needs to make sure that they also maintain the product's shelf life so that we aren't throwing away products too, as this too strains the supply and production chains, both environmentally and financially.
While plastic has often been portrayed as the enemy, bioplastics offer new and exciting opportunities for the best of both worlds, with packaging that is potentially biodegradable and compostable. But we need to make sure local councils and facilities have the ability to dispose of them so that the chain isn't broken.
So what are we using here at Farhi? While we do use plastic for some of our products, we have also been working with our manufacturers and suppliers to move some products into NatureFlex ™ packaging, which is a fully compostable, bio plastic product. This unique packaging helps to maintain the freshness of the product, and of course, it is food grade safe.
The cellulose used to make NatureFlex ™ is made from renewable wood pulp that is gathered sustainably from FSC-managed forests. NatureFlex ™ also has a coating that can protect against moisture, maximising the shelf life of products. NatureFlex ™ can then be broken down and degrade very quickly; you can even compost it like you would with your standard garden waste.
The future of food packaging is undoubtedly complicated, but it is very bright. It's easy to make assumptions about what is 'best', but like with our new packaging, there needs to be a little bit of 'flex', we all want to do better for the planet, and there is no one answer with what is 'right' and wrong', it's not as easy as that. But we are doing our best and hope to do better tomorrow than we did today.