The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, according to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
This plastic waste is detrimental to human and planetary health, releasing greenhouse gases, polluting soil and waters, and threatening marine wildlife. Plastic waste is now so abundant, the U.N. has declared it a planetary crisis.
Food and beverage companies have an important role to play in addressing this issue. A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund report estimates that across Southeast Asia and China, food and beverage packaging makes up around 60 percent of total plastic packaging waste. And a report on the Biodegradable Packaging Market in the U.S. finds that the industry is responsible for around half of packaging waste in U.S. landfills.
“Plastic packaging has a low recycling and recollection rate and the vast majority of it is lost, landfilled or incinerated,” Lindsey Howell, CEO and Co-Founder of Dispatch Goods, tells Food Tank. These components that are lost often end up in waterways and eventually oceans and marine ecosystems contributing to the estimated 14 million tons of plastic that enter the ocean every year.
Howell emphasizes that the carbon footprint of manufacturing single-use plastics should also not be overlooked, between transportation and incineration “these components tend to get less notoriety but …they are particularly concerning,” she tells Food Tank.
In response, some food companies are looking to slash waste through strategic partnerships and more environmentally friendly packaging, from reusable containers to compostable bags in spite of the low-cost and convenience aspects of single use packaging.
“What’s amazing is that the end consumers are doing the work for businesses like ours,” Howell tells Food Tank, “Time after time we are seeing that the number one reason that consumers are dissatisfied is because of something in the sustainability space, and generally in food its packaging.”
Food Tank is highlighting 19 of these food and beverage companies that are providing sustainable solutions to help protect the planet.
1. Achieve Pack
Achieve Pack, a Hong Kong-based consulting firm, produces Pouch.eco. They use 100 percent compostable plant-based materials to produce a variety of containers for both small and large food and beverage companies. Several companies around the world use Pouch.eco including Coffex in Australia, Trader Joe’s in the U.S., and Loblaws in Canada.
As one of New Zealand’s biggest milk producers, Anchor is pledging to reduce its production of plastic packaging waste. They recently developed a plant-based, 2-liter milk bottle made from renewable and sustainably sourced sugarcane. The company selected sugarcane as the base because the crop absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the bottle. In the future, Anchor plans to expand their sustainable container offerings based on consumer response.
Apeel’s goal is to reduce the amount of fresh food and food packaging that goes to waste by creating a plant-based protective layer around produce. The company uses materials already existing in the seeds, peels, and pulp of fruits and vegetables to help produce stay fresh for longer. The odorless, tasteless, and plant-based product helps companies reduce their plastic waste by eliminating the need for single-use plastics on their fruits and vegetables.
Founded in 2017, this Belgium zero-waste grocery store has locations across Belgium and operates an e-commerce business. Their online store offers a selection of dried foods and ready meals that come in either completely compostable packaging, or in glass jars that are reusable or returnable. Customers who choose to return their jars can do so at any location in BAM!’s network of organic stores across Belgium and in parts of France.
The company works with local smallholder farms to offer foods that are good for people and the environment. To lower their environmental footprint, the company introduced a recycling policy to prevent excess waste. Once customers finish a product, they are encouraged to send back the plastic packaging to Conscious Food’s headquarters where it is recycled or reused. In return, customers can receive a free packet of raw sugar with their next order.
Dispatch Goods in a female-founded logistics company in San Francisco whose mission is to create the infrastructure for reuse. The company partners with restaurants to offer food to customers in completely reusable packaging through two collection options – single point collection where businesses recollect the packaging, or distributive collection where dispatch goods collects the packaging from homes.
Since 2008, Ecologic has produced paper bottles with 100 percent recycled and recyclable material. The bottle’s inner liners are composed of recycled plastic while the outer shell is made of recycled cardboard and newspapers. Ecologic also uses a Box to Bottle traceable closed loop system, meaning that they receive waste from select manufacturing facilities and distribution centers in California to create their bottles. Their efforts have helped them become a California certified waste diverter and they are the recipient of several awards including a best sustainable packaging award.
Flight Coffee is a coffee company based in New Zealand. They source organic, fair trade, and sustainably produced coffee that supports small farmers in Myanmar, Rwanda, and Colombia. Although their bags are made from plastic, Flight Coffee partners with fencing company, Future Post, to create a recycling system. Future Post picks up the leftover packaging from partnered cafes that sell Flight Coffee’s products. Along with other soft plastics, they upcycle the bags into fence posts for vineyards and farms around New Zealand.
In 2013 Frosta, a German-based frozen food company, pledged to significantly reduce their environmental footprint. They started by removing aluminum trays and plastic films in their products, and most recently the company created products with 100 percent plastic-free packaging. Made from paper from FSC-certified forestry, and water-based ink, Frosta is the first German company to create plastic-free packaging for frozen meals. Frosta also won the 2020 German Packaging Award in the sustainability category.
Futamura, a Japanese packaging company, launched a compostable cellulose film product called NatureFlex in 2003. The film is eco-friendly, made from renewable resources and created to offer an alternative to traditional plastics. Since its launch, the company has created a range of compostable single-use containers such as tea and coffee packages, snacks and produce bags, and dried food packaging. Several food and beverage companies work with NatureFlex to offer sustainable packaging for their products. Kiddiekix in South Africa, for example, uses NatureFlex packaging for their cereals and dried fruit snacks. And chocolate company Alter Eco has partnered with Futamura to develop new packaging alternatives made from eucalyptus and birch trees.
This New Zealand based company manages seven locations around the country as well as an online store. GoodFor’s products come in 100 percent plastic-free and compostable packaging, made locally in New Zealand. For liquid or oily ingredients, they use zip lock bags made of cornstarch, a biodegradable co-polymer, and a starch-based bioplastics resin. Consumers can compost the bags at home or return them to the company to be composted by Wecompost, Auckland’s leading compostable waste collection service.
12. Imperfect Foods
The U.S. based company works with Dispatch Goods to deliver groceries that help consumers fight food waste. Groceries are delivered in 100 percent recycled boxes, the Imperfect Foods takes back the packaging to be reused or recycled. In addition to reducing food waste and plastic packaging, Imperfect Foods is committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Co-founders Karis and Dominic Gesau launched LICKALIX because they wanted to create a business and make a difference. The company’s popsicles, made from whole fruit, are sold in 100 percent plastic-free packaging. The wrappers are completely compostable material and decompose within 12 weeks. They are the first brand to win the Plastic Free trust mark in the frozen and ice cream category in all of Europe.
Started in the U.S., Loop partners with several major food brands and provides them with reusable packaging options. When ordering, customers put down a fully refundable deposit for each package and receive their products in a reusable Loop Tote bag. Once customers are done using the products and the packaging is empty, they can return the containers in the tote bag and receive their deposit. Loop’s partners include Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, Coca-Cola, and Carrefour and the company recently launched in Paris, France, and the United Kingdom.
This United Kingdom-based (UK) company specializes in plastic-free food packaging produced from seaweed and plants. Their product Ooho, is a sustainable packaging option for drinks and sauces that is both biodegradable and edible. In 2019, Ooho made an appearance at the Virgin Money London Marathon to help completely remove single waste plastic from the event.
16. Sun & Swell
The snack company Sun and Swell based in California sources environmentally sustainable ingredients and packs them into compostable packaging. If consumers are unable to compost the packaging themselves, Sun & Swell offers a send-back program and will compost the materials instead. They also use eco-friendly shipping materials, including cardboard boxes and compostable tape, and avoid plastic inserts.
17. Us Two Tea
Maggie Xue created Us Two Tea with the goal of bringing Asian tea culture to the U.S. In addition to sourcing directly from several small family-owned farms in Taiwan, Us Two Tea also strives to be environmentally conscious. All the teas, either full leaf or loose-leaf, are packaged in 100 percent biodegradable tea sachets. Made from corn fiber that is bleach free and non-GMO, the company hopes to make their packaging healthier for both people and the environment.
18. Vegan Dairy
Vegan Dairy is an Australian vegan dairy brand. In 2020 they began using 100 percent home compostable vacuum seal bags and labels for their entire range of plant-based cheeses. Customers can compost the bags and labels, but when no composting option is available, Vegan Dairy explains that eaters can bury the packaging in any garden bed or soil. When dealing with more oily products, the company packages them in airtight mason jars that consumers can reuse.
19. We Bar None
Founded by Ellen Burns, We Bar None is an Australian snack business which uses compostable wrappers. Burns started the company in 2015, with the goal of producing nutritious, ethical, zero-waste snacks. By 2018, We Bar None became the first Victorian business to use 100 percent home compostable wrappers for its energy bars.
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