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Plant-Based Packaging – Why its Worth It

Since I launched Tea Rebellion in 2017 one of the questions that keeps arising among food entrepreneurs is whether Plant-based packaging is worth it.

Here is the debate: Currently in Canada (and I am sure in many other countries too), municipalities do not have the advanced recycling and composting capabilities that we will help us ensure that more complex level of recycling (such as as Level 7) and composting fully happens in the public waste disposal system. For this reason, there is a hot debate amongst people in the food industry (packing companies, distributors, brands) on whether it is worth investing into compostable packaging. The argument goes, if it does not happen in the end, why should we spend the extra money?

We @tearebellion also had to ask ourselves what we should do. When we launched in 2017 we launched with recyclable packaging materials and one year into operations we faced the questions of whether to upgrade and invest the additional money and become compostable. The additional cost at the time was almost 200% that of recyclable materials. We asked ourselves: Is it worth it when you cannot ensure it actually gets composted?

Here is our perspective: We have talked to many food and packaging entrepreneurs in the industry as well as other companies in the sector (distributors, printing companies, thought leaders). Compostable materials are the way to go because even if the packaging does not get composted in the city it will still break down, maybe not in months but definitely in years! Yes the main advantage is that plant based film and ink will eventually break down (contrary to plastic) and therefore reduce the total amount of waste. Yes, of course we want the composting to happen in just a few months (and it will in the right conditions in your backyard), but even in the most lagging public waste management system plant based pouches will decompose over time and not be around in a generation to clock up the landfill site. That is a huge relief to us and we hope to you too.

We just financed a major print run and again we have chosen 100% compostable materials. Its getting easier now to make this choice and we are hoping more and more brands will follow suit. The materials are thinner and more affordable then they were 2 years ago when we first used plant based materials. We want to be part of the solution by helping to drive the demand up, costs down. With regard to the public systems, we believe that there will soon be a tipping point, where public opinion will sway the city to upgrade its waste management capability and help us all move to an even greener future more quickly.

Would welcome your thoughts on this conundrum.

Yours as ever

Annabel, CEO Of Tea Rebellion

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About the author: Annabel Kalmar founded Tea Rebellion to change the way tea is traded and to connect tea drinkers with tea farmers. She noted that consumers care deeply about the origin of their coffee, but are still in the dark when it comes to their tea. She developed a passion for improving farmers’ market access and incomes while studying agriculture and working in the fields of El Salvador and St. Lucia, harvesting coffee and interviewing farmers. She founded Tea Rebellion to change how tea is traded, marketed and consumed.

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