NGF packaging: a note about plastics

June 25, 2018 6:45 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Many of our customers are very concerned about plastic waste and unnecessary packaging. In our blogs over the next week or so, we’re looking at various alternatives to plastics, considering useful actions and ‘plastic swaps’ individuals can try out, to stem the tide of plastic washing over us all – and rushing into the world’s oceans. We’re going to take a look at our own toiletries, household cleaners and other NGF products, highlighting those that are best for people trying to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ plastic as much as they can.

But what about our own packaging – the stuff we use to send out our parcels to our customers? We’re getting lots of enquiries about how we package goods at the moment, so we thought we’d run over some of the main points.

The wider picture

Our primary aim is to deliver our products to our customers intact and in the best condition. We use a variety of boxes, bags, packaging fillers and wraps to ensure this happens. We’re continually looking into the best options for reduced or zero plastic packaging.

We always remind our customers that we’re just one part of the process. We stock products that are grown in as environmentally friendly a way as possible – organic, wherever we can. These products are sold to our wholesalers, who send them to us in bulk. The bulk stock arrives in a variety of forms: in boxes, paper sacks and polypropylene woven bags. The boxes and paper sacks are generally lined with plastic, to keep the contents fresh, dry and free from pests.

Our wholesalers deal with a huge number of producers, who use a wide variety of packaging. A product may arrive one week in a cardboard box lined with paper, and the next week in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. Grains may be supplied in paper sacks, lined paper sacks or vacuum-packed in plastic. When our customers ask us how the bulk produce is originally packaged, it’s rarely possible to give a firm answer: it varies from week to week.

NGF: our own packaging

When we pack our bulk stock down into smaller bags, we aim to use as little plastic as possible – the transparent NGF-label bags you receive from us are made from cellophane and are biodegradable. Sometimes, however, we find the use of plastic essential to keep a product fresh and in good condition. Plastic is generally stronger than paper bags and, as a lining, prevents moisture from weakening the exterior paper bag. Our dried fruit is moist and is sometimes lightly coated with vegetable oil, while our nuts and seeds are usually naturally oily. We use plastic and cellophane bags, where unavoidable, to keep these products airtight, fresh and suitable for transport.

For most of our customers, we then pack the order into external cardboard boxes. We use new, double-walled cardboard boxes for most of our parcels, as we have found these to be strong and reliable.

The goods inside the boxes are further protected by ‘loosefill’: usually non-GM corn ‘noodles’ that provide cushioning for the products. This loosefill is degradable – it simply dissolves in water. We will, occasionally, reuse polystyrene loosefill from our suppliers as packaging, rather than throw it away. We also use bubble-wrap and air pillows where we feel these are necessary. We have not yet managed to source degradable versions of these, but continue to search.

For some customers ordering 20kg or 25kg sacks, we pack the orders in woven polypropylene sacks, which give good protection on a sometimes rough journey to their destination. We have found that two sacks are best, as one often wears through. We form a handle with the fastener to make the sack easier to lift.

Customers with extremely large orders will often receive them on a pallet wrapped in heavy-duty cling-film.

Recycling packaging

We’re keen to reuse packaging wherever possible – if one of our supplier’s original boxes is sufficiently sturdy, we may well pack your order into it. But don’t worry: if any allergies are noted on your order, we won’t reuse a box that could cause you problems.

If we can’t reuse our suppliers’ packaging, we will recycle as much of it as possible and obviously encourage our customers to do the same. Our plastic and cellophane bags can be reused and in some areas, recycled; our bubble-wrap and other loosefill can serve your own packaging needs; and our paper and cardboard packaging is easily recyclable.

Zero plastic?

A number of innovative plastic-free packaging options are coming onto the market at the moment. We’re looking carefully into these, to work out what would serve our customers’ needs best. We’d be very interested to hear from our customers about any suitable options, so do get in touch if you have anything to suggest. Our packaging policy is, as ever, a work in progress!

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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