Working in a food caravan means that I’ve looked through all the packaging and cutlery available in the bulk section of Moore Wilson’s. There are many disappointing plastics. But what’s also disappointing is to see products made out of wood or sugarcane that are in an outer wrap of plastic. Even though we buy non-plastic packaging to avoid plastic, we still can’t seem to escape it. The non-plastic packaging is still packaged in plastic.
The first brand I called was BioChoice, which sits under the great umbrella of Bonson. Bonson also sells plastic packaging, so I wondered how receptive they would be.
I was directed to a sales rep, but no one picked up. I left a message on voicemail, although I got caught up in a passionate speech and got a lovely automated voice that said “Time has expired” and hung me up in the middle of my sentence. However, I did manage to get the Wellington sales rep to call me back.
When I expressed my disappointment in the plastic wrapper, it did not seem like they had considered the impact of that wrapper. The rep told me that there was nothing else she could do but pass my feedback on to the head office.
On their website, Bonson also has a page describing their “four pillars of sustainability”. One of these pillars involves: “Providing only a sustainable and environmentally friendly range of recyclable and biodegradable products. Every single one of our products is a testament to how we consider sustainability an integral part of our operation.” However, from my call, it didn’t seem like they were actively considering sustainability. So this mission statement just sounded like a total greenwash to me.
The other brand I called was Epicure Trading. The woman on the phone was a lot more receptive. I asked about possible alternatives they could use, such as a paper wrap or a cardboard box. She stated that those options are not durable enough, as the contents inside need to be kept food safe. Their products are also made in China and imported to New Zealand, so they have to survive that trip. She told me that some of the other products they import arrive in plastic, and that she has tried to ask them to change. Only for them to tell her that there is no other way.
The woman at Epicure said that she has been working on an alternative to the plastic wrap for two years. She also told me that Epicure has already started packaging their paper straws in cardboard boxes. However, she also mentioned something holding them back from making the change: the much more expensive cost of using non-plastic packaging. This reminded me how the world is not geared towards making business easier for those who consider their impact on the environment. Plastic is so cheap!
This reminder made me feel overwhelmed. And I really had to just exit for a few minutes, close my laptop, stop looking at my phone, and not think too much. We are trapped under these greater systems that favour quick sales and not the careful consideration that comes with being environmentally friendly. I am not always sure how to work towards fixing that. I suppose another solution is for consumers to BYO packaging and cutlery, but it’s important for me to see what’s going on in the manufacturer’s side too.
Still, I encouraged the woman at Epicure to keep trying and to take the lead. As I saw on the shelves of Moore Wilson’s, there is no plastic-free packaging or cutlery that isn’t packaged in plastic. Even the supposedly environmentally friendly options are not so friendly.