At Iron Ox, we are exploring the best possible options for sustainability across our operations and the life cycle of the products we sell. Packaging is one of many areas we are resourcing. Here's a snapshot of our current state, our next steps, and how we think about the journey ahead.
FIRST: It's hard to get away from plastic in the food world.
We've done quite a lot of research into commercially available compostable packaging that would fit our needs and have concluded that when you consider the entire lifecycle of the product, it's not actually an environmentally friendlier solution. Here's why:
- Molded fiber and paper packaging: Our product is often displayed in areas where it can get wet. These solutions don't adequately protect it, leading to spoilage and loss of the product before it makes it to a consumer. We know from a recent Life Cycle Assessment of our products that loss of the food product has a higher environmental burden than the footprint of the packaging itself (though the burdens are in different impact categories), so this option was not viable.
- "Compostable" PLA plastic: is not compostable in the vast majority of cases. The composting facilities we've spoken to (yes, we've gone on multiple composting tours) will typically filter out PLA plastic containers and take them to landfill because 1) they look like normal plastic, so it's hard to tell them apart, 2) they don't actually decompose on the timeline of a municipal composting facility and are simply screened out of the compost mix.
At this time, plastic is currently our best option, but we still know it's an imperfect one.
Here's what we're doing about it:
- Design for less material use: the only surefire way to reduce pollution from plastic is to use less of it. We've been working on a new package design that will use up to 42% less plastic for the same volume of product. You'll get to see it in stores around the fall of this year. Increasing our product-to-package ratio is a running sustainability target for us.
- Use of recycled materials: the same redesign with lower plastic volume is also moving from regular PET to rPET. This means that we're sourcing plastic that is not only recyclable but, more importantly, has already been recycled once before and is sourced from post-consumer materials. While we can't control whether a consumer recycles our package, we can make it as easy as possible for them to do so. We can increase the size of the market for recycled plastic, helping the waste and plastics industries see that there is value in investing in recycling infrastructure and processes.
We welcome suggestions for innovative ways to tread lightly and reduce footprint, packaging included. If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.