Packaging and sustainability at toucanBox

Birmingham Packaging Innovations Fair, March 2018

Jenny Cox on the sustainability wall

Why we went

In December toucanBox held a sustainability review. We decided that we had a responsibility to leave a better world than the one we currently live in to the next generation. We gathered a lot of ideas on what we can do to improve, and thought our packaging and product would be great place to start.

So here’s part one of The Great Packaging Adventure, starting with a journey northwards to Birmingham’s NEC to visit the Packaging Innovations Fair.

You’ve probably noticed that we currently use a variety of plastic bags within our boxes, either used by some of our suppliers to get the materials to us, or for us to continue to get the right materials to you.

Greg investigates some sustainable packing options

We’ve decided that we need to find the most sustainable way we can ensure the product reaches you without getting damaged, falling out or sitting wonky in the box causing postal issues.

We wanted to get experts’ opinions, and to explore some new options for us to use to package our product. It is essential that we make the right decisions at this point. The last thing we want to do is use something that isn’t as good as it seems or, worse still, something that ends up doing more harm than good. Sustainability is a complex and ever-evolving issue, and as we’ve explored our options we have encountered a surprising amount of greenwashing. Our goal is to have packaging that uses as little material as possible, and the material in question is easy to recycle and compost at home. Meaning that despite where you are in the world, and whatever your local council does or doesn’t provide in terms of a recycling service, you should easily and effortlessly be able to responsibly dispose of your toucanBox packaging.

Jenny - that’s me, hi! - Product Designer and in house eco-warrior, and Greg, our Factory Manager, are working together to find something that meets the requirements to get the best toucanBoxes to you, in the best way possible, without causing any harm to the planet. Here we are looking suitably excited at the task in hand:

Jenny and Greg at the packaging fair

Our findings and what we plan to do

We were delighted at the packaging fair to discover that a lot of companies, especially people making food and drinks, want to find new ways to package their product without causing damage to the planet. Woohoo! The theme of the whole event was even ‘sustainability’. To say I was excited is an understatement.

We’re looking into redesigning our boxes, so we can do without the bags altogether, but we’re not quite there yet and it’s going to take a little bit of time.

Whilst we work on that, we’ve decided to use fully recyclable plastic bags. These fellas are made from the same plastic as the plastic used to make supermarket bags, so can be recycled along with them at the special recycling bins near the tills.

Because of the mass desire to move away from plastic, lots of packaging companies at the fair were offering new types of packaging. There are lots of bioplastics available. These behave like plastic - as in they keep their contents dry and safe - but can they biodegrade when they’re not longer useful. Some can even be composted at home!

We want to do some checks to make sure these are up to the job; we don’t want them to fall apart when they’re stored in our warehouse or en-route to you. We also want to make sure these are as sustainable as they claim to be. We’re donning our science goggles and doing some experiments, testing out how fast they biodegrade at home to see if they live up to their promises.

Some toucanBox packaging options

We’re also being wary of some new, fake eco-friendly products that are also on the market, such as oxo-degradable plastics. These break up into tiny pieces, but cannot become compost like the biodegradable bio-plastic options. This stuff doesn’t help.

Another option is some stronger paper and biodegradable paper-based products. We’re doing a lot of testing with these to check they’re strong enough and thin enough to fit in our teeny, post-box-friendly boxes.

And we’re putting all of this information together to find the ultimate winner. I like to think of it like a giant packaging Olympics. Watch this space to see which option wins the Gold medal and is allowed to sit pride of place in all of our boxes.

To be continued…

Insights Index