Greener packaging

We love our boxes: please give them back!

Please return your box!

We’re very fond of our veg boxes and we’re desperate to get them back. The box we deliver your veg in is one which originally came to us as a box bearing some produce. We try only to use the boxes which originally came to us bearing fruit or veg. If we can avoid it, we don’t want to cause any more trees to be felled just to manufacture our packaging. The box may well have already been used as a veg box before, and we hope it will be many times in the future! They may become tatty; they may become a bit dog-eared, but we love our boxes: please give them back!

If you’re going to be out when we deliver your box, please leave your empty box in the place you’ve asked us to put your box. If that place is uncovered, and it looks like rain, please cover it (or even keep it till next time if you’ve got the space). Soggy cardboard falls apart.

Most of our produce comes from local farms in trays that we can return to the farm. It’s only some of the fruit and veg we buy in to supplement our local supply, which comes in the type of box we can use for your veg box. Suitable boxes are always in short supply, so we’re always keen to get them back.

Plastic versus food waste

There are – we hope – many things that attract new members to our company. As well as the idea of getting fresh, local, organic produce delivered right to your door, another big draw is the idea of getting vegetables and fruit without a lot of plastic packaging. The great majority of the veg and fruit we put into your box is plastic-free, either put in loose or in a brown paper bag, but there are a few things which are in a plastic bag. Why is that?

The issue of plastic packaging is a very important one and we take it very seriously. We only use plastic to provide an impermeable layer to protect fragile – usually leafy – items from the evaporation and consequent wilting that would render them as food waste before they can be used by you.

In our view, to throw food away, after all the work and resources that have gone into growing and transporting it, is a bigger environmental problem than the carefully thought-through use of plastic to prevent that happening.

Our local farmers have thought very seriously about the issue of plastic use, because like us, they do what they do through a deep commitment to the environment. They have come up with some different answers to this complex and difficult question. Waterland Organics, for example, have decided to switch to compostable plastic bags. Wildcountry Organics, on the other hand, following considerable experimentation with different options, have concluded that their zip-lock high-grade polythene bags are the better option. With such a complex and nuanced issue, we respect each farm’s own conclusion and don’t want to impose our own view on them. 

On the question of compostable plastic, my personal view is that it’s not the best solution – at least not yet for this area. Along with most of our members, I live in the area covered by the Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service (that’s Cambridge City and South Cambs). Compostable plastic can’t be put into our green bins, as all plastic is filtered out before the green waste is composted. Nor should it be put into our blue bins, as it can’t be recycled along with conventional plastic; it can’t be distinguished from conventional plastic by the sorting process and if it gets in with conventional plastic, it will contaminate that load for recycling. If a bag is certified as home-compostable, and you have a garden with your own compost heap, that’s great, but if you don’t, then the only option is to put the compostable bag into your black bin. Once buried in landfill, it will break down – that’s true enough – but in anaerobic conditions that will lead to the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Conventional plastic, on the other hand, can be put into our blue bins, as we are one of the few areas to have kerbside collection of plastic film. The type of clear polythene used by Wildcountry Organics, for example, is one of the more readily recyclable plastics and therefore sought after by recyclers.

  1. Wildcountry Organics’ experiment of putting their salad leaves in paper bags found that the paper absorbed moisture from the leaves, causing them to wilt.
  2. Wildcountry and Dynamic Organics’ zip-lock bags are really useful in the kitchen and around the house. 
    Use as many times as you can before recycling.

Members in East Cambs and Uttlesford don’t have kerbside plastic bag recycling, but can take them to a supermarket to be recycled. If you’re committed to a plastic-free lifestyle, please contact us to see what we can do.

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