When we set out to fix the food chain we defined four key pillars to combat the horrors of mass-produced food: 1. Sustainable land stewardship. 2. Paying farmers fairly. 3. Local as possible sourcing. 4. Highest possible animal welfare.
Our business impact on the world is always top of mind. We continue to run a 100% electric delivery fleet at the expense of being able to serve a wider geography. Reducing packaging we thought would be easy. We began by removing carrier bags as a standard way to pack all items into crates. It was pretty good at the time compared to the grocery category, but it’s clear we need to go much further.
Over the last few weeks as media and customer attention has brought plastic into sharp focus we’ve had to accept that our packaging standards are falling behind our brand promise and your expectations. So what are we doing about it?
1. The end of the dreaded white paper & plastic-fronted bag for fruit and vegetables
You hate these bags; we hate these bags. We’ve road tested a number of alternatives (with many failures) and finally have a replacement set to go live. By April ’18 fruit/veg currently packed with Farmdrop-supplied white paper bags with clear plastic fronts will be replaced by 100% recycled paper bags for items under 500g and fully home compostable bags for heavier items. These compostable bags will be accepted by local councils as food waste and will make ideal food bin liners. Single item fruit and veg will continue to arrive with no packaging whatsoever.
Update April ’18 – The fully compostable fruit and veg bags are now live in our supply chain.
2. Removing degradable bags for chilled products
We are required by food safety standards to put meat and fish in a barrier bag to avoid cross contamination. Currently this is a degradable plastic bag which will be replaced with a fully home compostable bag, due to go live April ’18.
3. Reusable coolant crates
We formerly used plastic Woolcool bags to transport all chilled items. The bags were reusable – but had a short lifespan and created waste. At the end of last year we moved to a specially designed reusable thermal crate and sustainable coolants which the drivers take away with them. These can be used up to 1000 times, and then recycled at the end of their lifespan.
Unfortunately, we aren’t able to leave these crates with our customers, so we still use Woolcool bags for customers who won’t be in to keep chilled products at temperature. The Woolcool bag and coolants can be returned to Farmdroppers and are re-used.
4. Return and reuse
We are championing producers who can reuse their own packaging. Mylkman supply all nut milks in glass bottles that can be collected by Farmdroppers and returned to the producer for reuse. Ratatouie baby food will also take back their glass jars for reuse. We are investigating a fresh milk supply in returnable glass bottles.
5. Working with producers
Producers understand the urgency to reduce plastic packaging and it’s been heartening to see many producers talking about their own innovations and focus on reducing plastic. Some customers have challenged us to simply lay down a “no plastic” gauntlet to producers. We’d love to say it’s that easy, but it’s not, especially when transporting fresh food to be delivered in optimal quality. We’re sharing the problem, not pushing it back solely on producers. Our next big focus is removing plastic punnets and removing plastic from baked goods. Some local apples are coming in plastic bags which will be eliminated by the time the new season opens later in the year.
Our largest producers by volume transport deliveries to Farmdrop in reusable boxes and crates meaning waste in our supply chain is vastly reduced.
6. Review, research and refine
As an ongoing longer term project we will continue to work with external packaging consultants alongside leading edge packaging suppliers and universities to source and develop the most sustainable packaging for individual requirements. It’s our aim to put Farmdrop at the front of the plastic packaging challenge. We’ve got some work to do and it won’t all come at once, but please know that we hear your concerns clearly and will continue to improve on our use of plastic.