The fight against plastic – are we technologically ready for it?
Earthworks was set up with a specific philosophy in mind, to reduce our impact on the earth, and utilize that which it provides us in a much better, more efficient way.
Our primary method to achieve this was the soapberry, but we augment this with other natural additives such as essential oils, additives from fruit, certain herbs and other natural ingredients to bring the level of effectiveness required by our customers.
The tough nut to crack, so to speak, was the packaging. One issue with a natural product is shelf life. Our philosophy dictates that we will not use a typical chemical preservative, and natural alternatives are limited – the one simple way to extend shelf life is to reduce the product's exposure to oxygen.
We looked at options such as waxed carton boxes, typical of milk cartons, but they are not allowed to be used for anything other than food products by the trademark holder. Plastic bottles are the norm, but the sheer amount of plastic required didn’t sit well with us either. Glass, easily recycled, is the breakable, too heavy increasing carbon footprint for shipping. We came across only two options that we believe get us closest to our philosophy without compromising the quality of our products:
1. Bag-in-a-box: Typical of wine, this bag is a fraction of the plastic required for a bottle, deflates with the content reducing oxygen exposure and fits perfectly into a recycled and renewably sourced box. This square profile allows us to ship our product much more densely, reducing our carbon footprint by not shipping lots of “free space”.
2. Recycled plastic (PET) pouch: We again turned to this rather than a bottle as the amount of plastic is greatly reduced. We can pack efficiently, and we use recycled PLA, so it can easily be recycled again. We had sourced other options, plant-based plastics and so on, but these did not fit with our ethos – they sound good for the environment, but are just as polluting as traditional plastic – we are not in this solely to “appear” to be eco-friendly.
Our appetite for “no plastic” looks to have moved faster than our ability to provide credible alternatives. If anyone has ideas on how we can improve our packaging options, please feel free to reply to this blog and start the debate on how to move forward in a positive sustainable way.
Clearly wrapping a banana in a plastic bag or slicing an apple and providing it in a plastic tray in a plastic wrapper and delivered in a plastic bag is obscene. It is a consumer choice to decline these products and buy more ethical, ecological options – only this consumer behavior will change the direction of companies.
Big business is looking solely after their bottom line, if this is helped by producing more eco-friendly options for a consumer base demanding it, they will. We believe that times are changing, and we want to move with the swelling consumer demand with a more sustainable business model.
We hope you will all join Earthworks on this journey.