Over the coming month, we aim to eliminate plastic from our business. Well, almost all plastic…
The reasons we’re doing this are simple:
- Plastic is rapidly becoming an environmental disaster
- Increasingly, plastic is shown as having an adverse impact on our health
- Plastic uses non-renewable resources that are best left in the ground.
But what are we going to use as replacements?
Essentially, we will be using either Hessian (Jute or Hemp), cardboard or paper bags as alternative packaging. Here are a few things you need to know, especially as it relates to storage.
- All products currently delivered in plastic punnets – cherry tomatoes, baby truss tomatoes, berries – will be delivered in cardboard punnets. From our testing, the produce seems to last as long as it does in plastic – and in some cases longer. The cardboard does a better job in allowing the produce to breath and absorb some moisture. All the same, they are sturdy and will last for weeks inside the fridge without deteriorating. Tip: re-use them as lunch boxes. When you throw them out, please make sure to put them in the recycle bin.
- Most products currently delivered in plastic produce bags will now be delivered in paper bags: beans, snow peas, Brussels sprouts, baby spinach, mesclun, loose rocket, etc. Most items keep better in paper (less moisture build-up), but loose leaves like baby spinach should not stay in the paper bag for more than 2 days, as the loss of moisture will make them wilt. So best transfer them to a closed container stored in the fridge. (There is a good range of glass containers on the markets with strong lids).
- Some products like grapes will be delivered in cardboard punnets.
- The large crate liners used to protect leafy greens – as well as for prepacked orders – will be replaced with Hessian. This is made of jute grown without the use of chemicals. Also the production uses no chemicals. Hessian – similar to what brushed potatoes are packed in – is ideal for allowing produce to breath, and to absorb excess moisture.
The transition away from plastic will take about a month, and should be complete by the end of July.
Some plastics – e.g. plastic wrap for watermelon – will remain. Unless you have any bright ideas!
Why is Harvest Hub going plastic-free?
The world uses – and discards – and estimated 1 trillion bags every year. That’s 1,000,000,000,000 plastic bags. Laid end to end, they would reach the moon and back – nearly 500 times!
Around 4 billion of them are used in Australia – or 10 million new bags a day. And although we’re good at recycling paper, cardboard and (maybe) bottles, we suck at recycling bags: just 5% gets recycled, and 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year.
In addition, around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year. Unless they are collected, they remain in the environment and accumulate at a staggering rate. If these 50 million plastic bags were made into a single plastic sheet, it would be big enough to cover the Melbourne CBD.
Many plastics photo-degrade into smaller pieces, but never dissolve. Many thousands of animals die each year as a result of ingesting plastic. And because plastic can last over 1000 years, the same piece can be ingested by a succession of animals. When they die and decay, the plastic gets released until consumed by its next victim.
So the problem with plastic is its longevity, which means that every year the problem gets bigger and bigger. Right now, there is a massive plastic ‘soup’ floating around the Pacific – see here for more detail.
So plastic is bad for the environment – and this is now entering mainstream discussion. A recent Senate inquiry recommended a total ban of single-use plastic bags by 2020, and an immediate ban on microbeads. For more detail, read this article in the SMH.