At Deliciously Ella, we’re committed to making eating healthier a little easier. Our health isn’t the only thing we believe in though, we’re also big believers in supporting the health of our planet. Ensuring that we make the right choices to minimise our impact on the environment is really important to us. That being said, putting this into action is more complicated than meets the eye, as you’ll see below…
When we produce our products, we look at three core aspects which have a direct impact on the environment: product, packaging and delivery.
1. Production – how we make our products
• First and foremost we only use plant-based ingredients to make our vegan recipes. Recent studies have shown a vegan diet to be the single biggest thing we can do as individuals to have an impact on the planet. The livestock industry contributes more to our collective build-up of greenhouse gases than all planes, trains and cars put together, so we believe in bypassing these industries we can have a really positive impact. Have a listen to our podcast episode on the topic to learn more about veganism and the environment.
• We source ingredients from suppliers where agriculture environmental standards are well controlled.
• And we work with production partners who minimise the waste that’s sent to landfill and who minimise the usage of electricity and other fuels.
2. Packaging – how we package our products
• We always aim to choose the most sustainable packaging solutions for our products. This is a tricky area and truthfully, commercially available materials are lagging behind our desire for 100% household recyclable packaging.
The role of packaging
• We use packaging to protect our products through their shelf life.
• Choosing the right materials is crucial because we don’t want to add to the issue of food waste, and of course we also want our products to retain their quality and for them to last until they reach your home. Getting this wrong and creating food waste is a double negative for the environment because it means that we have wasted the ingredients, production, packaging and delivery as well as the finished product.
• If food waste was a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, it’s one of the biggest (and mostly silent) issues in global warming at the moment. Have a listen to our podcast episode on the topic to learn more.
What’s recyclable packaging?
• We define recyclable packaging as the types of materials that can be placed in household recycling. Some materials can be recycled at local refuse centres or through specialist centres but this isn’t widespread and from our research it doesn’t improve the adoption rate for recycling. It’s likely that some of this material is sent to landfill, is sent abroad or is burnt.
• We have experimented with compostable material and used it for our energy balls when they first launched. It sounds like a dream solution but unfortunately, as we came to learn, the vast majority of compostable packaging can’t decompose in home compost bins. It requires high levels of heat and humidity to break down (and that isn’t possible in the UK), so it needs to go to an industrial composting plant, which we don’t currently have access to as consumers. There’s also research to show that any plastic that’s contained in the packaging could enter the ecosystem through microplastics when it eventually breaks down. If compostable packaging enters the recycling stream, it can also contaminate ‘good’ recyclable materials and can result in those being sent to landfill or being burnt. As a result of this, we moved away from that material. It sounded great, but the realities didn’t match up to the dream.
• There’s quite a lot of confusion surrounding plastic. Some plastic is better for the environment than comparable materials e.g. glass, because it’s light (and doesn’t take much carbon to transport it) and can be easily recycled e.g. juice bottles or trays that things like soft fruit come in. There are some plastics which cannot be recycled (currently) and the facilities don’t exist commercially to recycle them e.g. plastic straws or plastic film. The role of these plastics can be important in the food industry but they have to be used sparingly, and only when they will make a difference to the carbon impact of that product. If there’s no alternative, industry, government and society need to apply pressure to make better options available. Pass on plastic is a great example of this.
What do we currently use to package our products?
• Energy Balls, Oat Bars and Peanut Butter Balls
Box / Outer box: This is made from 100% recyclable cardboard.
Card (that the ball sits on): This is made from 100% recyclable cardboard.
Paper Film: This is made from a thin layer of food safe plastic which isn’t currently recyclable.
We have been researching a film which is made from 100% paper, which could be placed into household recycling.
It has undergone rigorous testing but it isn’t robust enough for us to use at the moment. We are keeping a close eye on the developments to hopefully use this in the near future.
Transit box: This is made from 100% recyclable cardboard.
Pouch: Our pouch is made from plastic which keeps the product safe and maintains the quality for its shelf life.
We chose to use a pouch because it’s easy to reseal at home, which helps to reduce food waste.
Unfortunately, recyclable plastic pouches are not commercially available. It’s something that we’re focussed to find and use, as soon as it’s available.
We are reviewing the carbon impact of a bag in a box (and plastic or paper bag) to ensure this is the best choice for the environment.
• Frozen Meals
Tray: This is made from 100% recyclable cardboard.
Liner: This is made from paper. It is recyclable but we wouldn’t recommend recycling this because it has come into contact with food. The liner is used to protect the cardboard tray, so it can be recycled.
Sleeve: This is made from 100% recyclable cardboard.
Film: This is made from a thin layer of plastic and is used to keep the meal food safe. This isn’t recyclable at the moment.
Transporting products from our production partners to your home plays a large role in the carbon impact of what we make.
Firstly, materials need to be delivered to our production partners. They then are made into our delicious products before then being sent to our warehouse, and then shipped to the supermarket warehouse. They are then sent from the supermarket warehouse to the store and on to your home. There can be a lot of vehicles and miles associated with this process.
Making this as efficient as possible is the critical way to reduce the carbon impact of everything we make. This is also true for every other food business that you shop in your local supermarket.
We will always send as much as we can on a truck in one go (to maximise the stock that’s being transported at once). We also always minimise the amount of packaging used to secure deliveries and we always put stock on to reusable wooden pallets.
At Deliciously Ella, we will always use the most appropriate packaging to prevent food waste and to minimise the carbon impact of our products on the environment. We aim to maximise the amount of recyclable packaging in our products and we are committed to trialling materials as they become commercially available. As you’ll appreciate, we’re not an engineering company and can’t create the solutions ourselves, but will be a first adopeter whenever more sutainable materials become commercially available.
We are delighted to hear from packaging companies, scientists, and industry experts who can help us be the best possible food brand in the UK at lowering our carbon footprint and investing in greener materials. If you would like to get in touch, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.