With the growing awareness of the urgency of climate change the demand for more sustainable solutions is increasing rapidly. Yet it is not as easy to implement these principles as it seems.
Polyprint, a Danish packaging producer, set an example when it comes to the evolution of packaging by creating the three R’s, principles that lead toward sustainable packaging. At John Altman we also aspire to be as sustainable as possible. This is not easy, as food requires specific packaging to stay fresh because nobody wants to eat soggy popcorn. Thus, popcorn requires to be sealed airtight and needs a protective film to remain delicious. John Altman currently uses recyclable packaging for our popcorn. As John Altman is continuously working on improving products and increasing sustainability, we are searching for a better packaging for our nuts. At the moment it is not yet recyclable, as the packaging is made of paper and plastic. By following the three R’s we are working on these goals.
The first ideal, reduce, we have been able to follow successfully. When John Altman first started out we sold our popcorn in plastic buckets before switching to paper bags with a see-through plastic panel and finally to the recyclable packaging you can buy today. Through downsizing the packaging we managed to reduce the amount of plastic as well as the CO2 emissions due to the ease of transporting smaller packaging and using less material. In addition to this, by downgauging the materials in our current packaging we have been able to make the popcorn packaging recyclable. While it is metalized, the layer is very thin and PP5 materials count as monopackaging. This means, that for the most part the packaging is made of one material and is therefore easy to recycle. Empty popcorn bags can be burned completely, without toxic emissions, and be turned into new ones. The snack size is not only enjoyable and good for on the go but also helps to minimize food waste.
The other two R’s, recycle and renew, are harder for smaller brands to implement. As our popcorn bags are intended to land in the recycling bin once empty, they automatically become part of the circular economy. While metal-free options represent an end goal, it is currently unavoidable for our packaging to completely refrain from using metalized lining. Along with the EU packaging strategy John Altman is also constantly trying to improve.
A popular trend when it comes to renewing materials is bio-based packaging. In theory packaging made of natural, biodegradable materials that breaks down long before plastic does sounds amazing. Yet in practice it is not as convincing. At the moment, the garbage processing plants cannot deal with the leftovers properly and it cannot be recycled with traditional packaging. This means it is not a viable option until better techniques have been developed and more companies switch. This was also taken into account by Tony's Chocolonely when they created their Tiny Tony’s packaging. The same goes for making fossil free wrappers. Reducing the amount of fossils used in the process is a first step into the right direction until this goal can eventually be achieved as well. Finally, the aspect of CO2 reduction is one that is implemented during the production of John Altman products. As we choose our producers as geographically close to us as possible, the emissions during transport are significantly lower.
All three R’s overlap in some areas, and ultimately represent a goal that could be achieved by John Altman in the future. At the moment we are trying to make our packaging as sustainable as we can.