Fermented by L A B

Enough is Enough: the Plastic Packaging Has to Go...

SustainabilityAlana Holloway

How it all began

When I first started FBL, I was sure I was going to be a plastic-free, or at least very low-plastic business.   The first Boxes I sent contained bio-degradable packing peanuts to protect the glass jars and bottles.  The labels on the jars and bottles were paper, the Boxes themselves were cardboard and even the tape I used was paper (both of those thigs still stand).  About a month and a half, I had had to send out so many replacement boxes due to breakages, that if I didn’t change something about the way I was packing my ferments, I’d be out of business pretty quickly. Not to mention the extra carbon miles accrued and the tonne of wasted product.  You see, the bio-degradable packing peanuts are made from corn starch and dissolve when they come into contact with liquid.  The nature of ferments mean that they can be pretty lively and occasionally the jar or bottle leaks when in transit. Add that to the condensation from the pre-chilled bottles ad what was often being delivered was a Box of dissolved, gluey, packing peanuts stuck to glass jars and bottles that had crashed against each other and broken … not quite what I was aiming for.

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 Packaging: marks 2 and 3

When I came across plastic inflatable air-packs, I thought my prayers had been answered.  I had found something that protected to a very high level (the journey my boxes go on with the courier is very bumpy, cramped and turbulent, so high-level protection is vital) that was also 100% recyclable and I have been using them ever since, with much success.  However, the recent hike in awareness about the damage plastic is doing to our planet – recyclable or not – has meant that I’ve had to return to the drawing board. It’s at this point (and at many points before) that I wish all my bottles and jars were the same size; that way I’d be able to use the standard cardboard dividers, some extra padding and I’d be away! Being a one-woman-band has meant that this trip to the drawing board has taken longer than I’d hoped.  There have been quite a few back-and-forths with the packaging company to try and get the design right, which has delayed the process even further, and it’s still not quite there.  You, my lovely customers, have been extremely patient and understanding of the time it’s taking and for that I am ever so grateful…

 

What’s next?

… But then my eyes were opened and on Tuesday of this week (02.10.18), I said enough is enough.  I, like many others, watched the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic and I felt physically sick.  Even thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye.  I was well aware that we couldn’t go on using plastic like we have been, but I had absolutely no idea quite how bad the situation had become.  And to think that I’ve been contributing to that as a business, makes me feel so ashamed.  I have made a promise that I won’t place another order for the plastic air-packs; there has to be another way.  I have a number of them to get through before I can stop using them altogether, but over the next few deliveries, I’ll be phasing in an alterative.   It won’t be the alterative that I’ve been working on as the design is still being tweaked and then the bespoke cutter needs to be made.  The lead time, once the order has been placed, is then another couple of weeks, give or take.  Then there’s the busyness of the Christmas period to think about.  But, for the sake of not putting any more single-use plastic into our oceans - and the creatures that live within - I’m just going to have to suck it up.  I’m freaking out that it’s all going to go tits-up and I’m really hoping that the temporary alternative won’t result in a load of breakages – I’ve learnt a lot about how to package since my early days – but if it does, I’m praying that you’ll bear with me.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress that’s made.  If you have any suggestions for my interim alternative, please throw them my way!

That’s it for now! 

Alana x