An open letter to our customers and communityThank you to those of you who continue to engage with us about our plastic packaging. We appreciate your feedback as you challenge us to do better. We constantly listen, learn, debate and review our position. The individual conversations we have with some of you help us to stay honest and prioritise the issue within our business. Thank you. Many of your concerns and questions are shared, so we have summarised them below in the hope that it may help you understand where our business is at in this plastic dilemma.
As a New Zealand business we feel trapped between trying to make a decision that is right for our environment when New Zealand has a developing recycling strategy with few to no options for the recycling of #5 plastics.
Why does Anathoth Farm choose to use #5 (polypropylene or PP) plastic?
- Unlike most competitors, Anathoth Farm does not add preservative to our products. All our jams, chutneys, relishes and pickles are therefore hot filled at high temperatures (85 degrees +) into their packaging vessel to reduce the risk of yeasts and moulds. #5 is the only plastic that can withstand these hot fill temperatures; similar to honey.
My council won’t pick up #3-#7 plastics anymore. I am concerned it’s all going to landfill
- Unfortunately, #5 plastic is a low value plastic. This means it is not easily recycled and manufactured into plastic granules that can be used to make new plastic items. This is the reason that many NZ councils choose not to pick #5 plastic up in kerbside recycling.
- Some councils are still committing to pick up #5 in kerbside recycling as the sorting plant they contract may have a market for #5. After contacting some of these sorting plants, we can confirm that a percentage of #5 is still being shipped to selected off shore markets and some #5 is sorted and sold to NZ businesses who are manufacturing into plastic granules for re-use.
- More detailed information about local council recycling can be found here.
Why doesn’t Anathoth Farm move to glass packaging?
- Anathoth Farm is manufactured by Barker Fruit Processors. We already use glass and other alternatives for some of our products and we support many pack types. However, we do not believe glass is better for the environment long term. Glass is energy intensive to make and to ship around the country. The recycling of glass is also energy intensive. Our locally produced plastic pot is nested for transportation and is lighter and safer to work with in the supply chain and in homes.
- Anathoth Farm upgraded its polypropylene pot in 2013 and reduced the plastic in each pot by 12%. The current pot is up to 10 times lighter than a glass jar equivalent. It occupies potentially 7-8 times less volume than glass when packed and shipped empty (prior to filling). These two factors combined mean a significant improvement in freight resource and the carbon footprint generated by the transportation of this packaging type.
- Our glass and plastic production lines are in separate areas of the factory and employ different technology. We are unable to transfer all our plastic volume onto to our glass line as it does not currently have capacity. We are planning a factory upgrade and are currently reviewing our packaging types and production capabilities as a result.
If my council won’t pick up #5 plastics in kerbside recycling, what can I do with it?
- We believe our pots are just as handy as glass for re-use in the home. Anathoth pots are dishwasher and microwave safe, making it a great container for food leftovers. They are also great for crafts. You may be interested in some of these upcycled/recycled craft ideas.
What is your business doing to show customers you are taking this topic seriously?
- We are re-opening our review into changing the plastic type of our lid used on our Anathoth pot. We are investigating whether there is a better plastic or alternative solution.
- We are committed to learn more about the carbon footprint of glass vs plastic vs alternatives. There is no ‘off the shelf’ study or data so it is taking some time to develop a strategy and project team to action a study. We see other manufacturers who use both glass and plastic packaging debate the same topic.
- We recognise its more important to practice overall sustainable habits rather than focus our efforts on one packaging material over the other. Despite this we have committed to a plastic audit in our wider business. As a result, we have installed new pallet wrapping equipment at our warehouse to reduce the amount of plastic used to wrap product prior to shipping. The reduction in plastic wrap used by installing these two pre-stretch wrappers has been significant – over 50% less plastic used since the June 2018 install.
- We have created a culture of questioning single use plastic packaging internally and challenge one another on reducing the amount of plastic waste; as well as general waste generated as individuals and teams.
- We have joined a group of South Canterbury manufacturers who are collaborating to discuss and find solutions for sustainable waste and by-product management. This collective is working with researchers from the University of Canterbury to find technical solutions for the region’s solid waste options.
- We have put a plan in place to work closer with the Sustainable Business Network to help navigate our way through a plastic audit within our business.
- Our international connections continue to research technologies and processes to help us better understand the future of sustainable plastic packaging. We take these learnings and then assess whether NZ manufacturing practices and infrastructure can support. Sadly, this is where many barriers are identified.
In our view, having an engaged conversation which can deepen everyone’s understanding for the issues at hand is highly valuable. To that end we share the report ‘New Zealand’s Plastic Packaging System – An Initial Circular Economy Diagnosis’ and hope some of these insights and actions help continue the conversation and education within our community.
The opportunity to become a leading food manufacturer by better protecting our place and our people is one of our core business priorities in the next 12 months. You may be interested to read more in our blog A Rural Enterprise.
We look forward to continuing the conversation with you. We welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.