Updated June 2019
An open letter to our customers and communityThank you to those of you who engage with us about our packaging. We appreciate your feedback which keeps us honest and helps navigate our journey on waste. Thank you. Some of your questions are shared, so we have summarised some thoughts below in the hope that it may help you understand where our business is at.
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. Our process ensures food safety which is paramount to us.
- Our South Island produced plastic pot is nested for transportation and is lighter and safer to work with in the supply chain and in homes. Many customers enjoy its handy repurposing opportunity in and around the home.
- Our pots are just as useful as other vessels such as glass. 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 craft ideas: https://www.anathoth.co.nz/latest-news/recycled-crafts/
- 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.
What happens to my #5 pot once it’s picked up in council kerbside recycling?
- #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 why some NZ councils choose not to pick up plastics #3 – #7 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.
Will 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 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.
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 it’s 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 government organisation and industry associations and learn from collectives such as the Sustainable Business Network to help navigate our way.
- 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.
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. You may be interested to read more in our article A Rural Enterprise.
We look forward to continuing the conversation with you. We welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.