Ripple Farm talk 'plastics and packaging'

There is growing awareness and action around reducing food and drink packaging. This week a new plastic-free “trust mark” was introduced allowing shoppers to see at a glance whether products use plastic in their packaging. This is accompanied with awareness raising campaigns such as highlighting the global disaster that is plastic use.

Did you know?

·40% of all plastic created is used for packaging

·6.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been made since 1950’s

·Yet only 9% has been recycled!

We have changed our weekly veg bags to plastic free yet some plastic packaging still ends up inside these bags-this is something we are looking to work with our farms to change. As we've had some enquiries from customers asking about our farms use of plastic packaging Local Greens has contacted all our farms asking them to share why they continue (in some part) to use plastics. Here’s what Ripple Farm had to say.

Ripple Farm -Plastic & Packaging  use explained

We use plastics which are currently made from Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) for some of our produce (leafy greens mainly) the reason for doing so is because we've tried compostable and biodegradable bags in the past but these absorbed moisture from the leafy vegetables that were packed in them and so didn't work for our products.  From a marketing point of view because the bags were opaque, they didn't display the produce well in a shop or market stall. We're also aware that 'compostable bags' only actually compost if the conditions are just right.

However, we've recently sourced some bags made from wood pulp, which we've trialled with a box scheme that we supply and currently awaiting feedback. These are strong and see-through, but they are 10 times the cost of the current bags we use though and as practical for packing into.

 We've also had samples of  some bags made from recycled plastic, but these were not at all strong and not suitable. Not sure why, as we have also used carrier bags made from recycled plastic which are much stronger. We are currently looking into oxo-biodegradable plastic, which seem like a good solution.

Bags made from oxo-biodegradable plastic can be made in factories currently making normal plastic bags, but just need a small amount of an additive to make them oxo-biodegradable, which should make them comparable to other bags we use in practical terms and not add much cost. It seems this technology has been used in some countries for over 10 years but is not widely used in Europe, so I haven't found a supplier yet.

A call for help

It would be good to get an expert, impartial opinion on whether oxo-biodegradable is truly biodegradable before we go further. (There seems to be quite a bit of confusion between degradable (breaks down into micro plastic and oxo-biodegradable). If any one can assist with this, we’d love to hear from you!

Looking to the future

Ripple will continue to research and try alternatives so far, they have realised that it's not as simple as 'plastic' equals bad, 'paper/card/compostable' equals good. It’s important to consider the energy used in producing and transporting the packaging as well as where it ends up at the end of its life.  See this report from Riverford, who commissioned a packaging study with the University of Exeter

Now the issue is in the spotlight, there needs to be either legislation (some countries, including Rwanda, have banned the plastic bag!) or the big supermarkets, with all their buying power need to demand sustainable packaging options. Then it will be easier for the small businesses like us, to source sustainable packaging.