Packaging is a Complex Universe.
In our constant drive to reduce our environmental impact, we have been focussing in the last couple of years on the Ziploc bags that we use for our loose-leaf teas. Many of you have noticed the changes in materials in recent years. The principal materials being either multi-layered bags of plastic and aluminium foil or, more recently, paper and cellulose with a ‘compostable’ statement on them.
Along with many other companies in the food-industry, we strongly believed that using a compotable material was the way to go. However, after various test-runs, we came to the conclusion that the compostable options were not keeping the tea fresh enough and were not durable enough. We realized that it was the overall life of the bag that we need to consider to really measure its impact. In this case it was the end of its use that was the biggest problem.
Quebec and the rest of Canada do not have the highly developed installations to sort and process these ‘compostable’ materials into quality compost. We discovered that when these bags were put into the compost bin they were pulled out at the center so as not to contaminate the organic matter. IT is simply due to the fact that they degrade too slowly so cannot be mixed with regular table waste.
On top of this our compostable bags were not ideal for conserving the freshness of the tea mid to long term. In our business retaining the freshness is key to both the enjoyment of the product but also reduces waste that also has an additional and very important environmental impact.
Lastly the compostable bags tore easily so were not durable enough to be used few times.
The Option of Plastic
So what about ‘No2’ plastic that is used for those ‘one use’ recyclable carrier bags? According to the experts at RECYC-QUEBEC, here in Quebec any rigid containers, like the ones from laudry soap, are recycled. However, for plastic bags this is not the case. Due to an absence of any buyers willing to recycle these products the bags we put into our recycling bins often end up in the garbage. This may well become an option in the future so we will be keeping an eye on new recyclable products and services for the future.
Reducing and Reusing Packaging
Following this extensive research, with the information available to us, we have decided to return to multi-layered reusable bags as they remain the most effective for retaining the freshness and integrity of tea and herbals in the long-term. These bags can also be refilled as many as twenty times. 20 years ago, long before the notion of re-use was so generally accepted, we began offering a 50c discount to clients that reused their bags or brought their own containers. This practice will, of course, continue.
Finally, despite the fact that Quebec has very clear legislation for recyclable and compostable materials, there is a need to invest in equipment that can process these compostable packaging at the end of their use.
For merchants and distributors like ourselves, we must continually re-evaluate the impact of our packaging. On a more positive note, we are proud to present our new line of packaging, available this autumn on the shelves of our wholesale clients. They contain 52% less materials than our previous packaging of loose leaf and 68% less for our teabag selection.
Thanks for your understanding and support throughout this chapters of this ongoing story.
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