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Sustainability

Is Sustainable Packaging Even Possible?

April 22, 2022 No Comments

Happy Earth Day! 

As the climate keeps warming and weather patterns continue to astonish us, it is more important than ever to ‘give a damn’ when it comes to the environment. At the risk of preaching to the choir, we thought you might appreciate knowing a bit more about what our company does to keep care for the Earth front and centre.

We wrote a whole blog post about Environmental Stewardship being one of our core values that you can find here. Today, we’d like to share a real thorn in our side – packaging.

Businesses need to package their goods to get them to consumers, and plastics have offered lightweight, durable options, but at a huge cost. Statistics show that of the 9.2 billion tons of plastic that has been produced worldwide, only 9% has ever been recycled properly. This has lead to an immense environmental threat and the horrifying projection of more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050.

In order to solve this problem, there is much that needs to change, including lobbying governments to ensure plastic recycling is offered, education about how to recycle properly is provided, and facilities that are able to compost biodegradable plastic are built (more on that in a minute!).

Here are a few things we are doing at Gathering Place:

  • All of our packaging is a type that is recyclable in our home province. The process varies in other provinces and around the world, so you’ll have to check your local recycling guidelines if you are reading this outside of B.C. or Canada. In B.C., there are two types of plastic you can bring to the depot to recycle: “crinkly plastics” and “soft plastics.” Gathering Place packaging, which are stand-up, resealable pouches, are considered crinkly plastic, even though they don’t ‘crinkle’ when you touch them. How confusing! 

In case you are also confused, “crinkly” plastics include:

 ~ Stand-up and zipper-lock pouches

~ Crinkly wrappers and bags

~ Flexible packaging with plastic seal

~ Woven and net plastic bags

~ Non-food protective packaging

  • We are pushing for compostable plastic packaging to become a real and viable packaging option. In order for this to happen, special plastic composting facilities need to be built. In our home province of B.C., there are currently no facilities that can deal with compostable plastic packaging. This is something we are actively advocating for. We see consumers doing the right thing by buying compostable or oxydegradable packaging, but the reality is that without a facility to handle the composting of plastic, these packages often end up in the landfill. This is not the way it should be! Governments should be leading the way by creating facilities and waste stream collection for compostable packaging, so businesses can feel good about using them. 
  • Founder Lovena Harvey is an active member of B.C.’s Sustainable Packaging Task Force. This group of small and medium-sized businesses are working together to create a guide for business owners and decision-makers about the sustainability virtues of each type of packaging. On first glance, it seems as if this research would be cut and dry, but it is actually quite complicated. For example, given the choice, you might think that a reusable tin would be a better option than a plastic pouch. But what if the tin was made in China where the metals have been extracted from the earth in a carbon intensive process, heated in a furnace of 2500 degrees F, and then shipped by sea freighter (or flown by air) to Canada? And what if the plastic pouch was manufactured locally and could be recycled? Which is the better option for the environment? The tin that is created using an energy intensive process and then shipped half way around the world using fossil fuels to travel? Or plastic that is created locally and can be recycled locally? And then to complicate matters, there is the unknown and personal choice of the consumer about how many times they re-use the tin or the plastic pouch and then what they do with it in the end. It’s a perplexing dilemma!

Even with the confusion inherent in the plastic packaging problem, there are a few important things that you can do:

  • Wherever you are in the world, ask your municipality or local government body for plastic recycling. Being able to take it to a depot is good, but having plastic recycling available at your curb is even better. 
  • Advocate for a plastic composting facility in your region.
  • Wash and dry all plastic packaging before it goes into your recycling. Many people don’t realize that unwashed plastic packaging, and all the other recycling it came into contact with, usually ends up in the landfill. We have a little “clothes line” in front of our dish pit where we hang the packaging upside down until it dries enough to recycle.

As you can tell, this is a topic we are deeply invested in. If you have ideas to share, please send them our way. We hope you plant some seeds, or simply plant your feet in the dirt of our beautiful planet, today.

Happy Earth Day to you!

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