You will have noticed that the salad bags in your boxes are no longer plastic. In fact, the vast majority of the packaging that now arrives with your delicate, leafy veg is fully compostable. George has been quietly working away behind the scenes and we’re delighted to say, he’s found an alternative to those pesky plastic bags that dramatically reduces our impact on the environment.
As we mentioned before in a previous blog post, trials last year of compostable packaging on the farm were less than successful. Roll on another year and technology has improved and prices have (slightly) come down so that now there’s a readily available, fully compostable bag we can use with ease, every week.
So what does fully compostable mean? Well, it’s different to a ‘degradable’ bag, which breaks down but into tiny plastic pieces and a ‘biodegradable’ bag which breaks down into natural elements but takes a long time and can require an additional process. A compostable bag is exactly that, a bag that is made of natural materials that can be put onto your home compost heap and will break down completely leaving no residue. These are reasonably new technologies and it takes time to work out what’s best for each individual business but the bags that George uses at Sandy Lane are stamped with the EN 13432 mark, which means they are certified as fully compostable by European standards.
So what if you don’t have a compost heap? A small amount of these compostable bags can go into the food waste but the advice is to make double use of them first. Basically, use the empty bag as a ‘vessel’ before putting it in the caddy - eg: fill it with peelings or to wrap up a mouldy cucumber you’d forgotten about and then bin the the lot. If the bag is large enough it can be used to line your food caddy, again, saving on waste.
George is delighted to have reached this point in the journey. It hasn’t been easy finding the right bag that was user friendly, affordable and ALSO GM free to adhere to Soil Association organic standards. But the move to home compostable has been worth the effort - George reckons it’s reduced the use of plastic in our boxes by a massive 85% which is absolutely fantastic. There are some caveats - the labels on the salad bags are still NOT compostable or recyclable (this is next on the list!). These white sticky labels need to be removed and added to the main waste separately. Also, when George buys in veg for the boxes and it arrives in plastic, he won’t replace the bags as that doesn’t seem to make sense and just creates more waste. We hope you can find a use for these last remaining plastic bags as and when they arrive, which won’t be often now. Also, if something is too large and heavy (like squash) it may still need a plastic bag as these compostable bags, by their very nature, rip easily. It’s a bit of trial and error but the journey is certainly along the right track.
Yes, it’s taken time and effort, yes the compostable bags are SIX TIMES as expensive as plastic bags (!) but they are absolutely, totally 100% worth it. The goal, of course, is really is for us all to reduce our packaging ‘full stop’ and try and limit any sort of bagging or wrapping but when it’s really necessary, we now have a solution that lightens our tread on the earth. And that’s the most important thing of all!