Our sustainability story is at the heart of our family farm.
We have lived and farmed here for over 50 years and in 1989 we converted our farm to Soil Association organic standards. Research has proven organic farming has a far smaller environmental footprint than conventional farming, this is because we farm our land in a more sustainable way. Because this is our home, we are very aware of our environment and the need to preserve it.
Our ice cream production is 100% carbon neutral for process hot water thanks to our biomass wood pellet boiler, using accredited wood pellets. We also have four barns covered in solar panels generating over 170kw of green energy and our bore hole covers all our water requirements across the business. For more information on the sustainable measures we adhere to when producing our ice cream on our Sustainable website page here.
As a company, we are constantly making improvements to our packaging which complement our interest in making a sustainable enterprise. We have based all our decisions on leading industry research and customer feedback. We aim to be honest and transparent in our move away from plastic; we hope the updates shown below highlight the steps we have already taken in making positive, informed changes and our commitment to investing in our packaging.
What’s been done so far?
Over the last few years we have worked closely with packaging manufacturers to ensure our tubs evolve with recycling developments.
In September 2018 we made a small change to our mini tub packaging that made a big difference: removing black plastic. When the business rebranded in 2016 our 125ml tubs (also known as our mini tub range) had a black plastic lid; after meetings with local waste disposable companies we learnt in some recycling plants the colour dye in black plastic could not be recognised moving down the waste conveyor belt, making it difficult to capture and recycle.
To fix this problem, in September last year we switched our mini tub lids from black to clear plastic. This was an easy change we were able to make with our existing packaging manufacturer and ensured our lids were 100% recyclable across the UK. Click through to our previous news post here.
We also work closely with our customers to encourage them to be more sustainable after implementing successful changes in our own parlour.
Addressing Single Use Plastic
Within the food industry, many manufacturers have moved across to biodegradable or compostable packaging, a counter offer on the war on plastic. However, when reading the small print of these containers, many show this level of compostable/degradable breakdown can only be achieved in industrial facilities. Current ‘close-the-loop’ compostable collections are few and hard to find.
This quote is from The Grocer magazine : “It also means there is only merit in a biodegradable plastic if it’s accepted and processed by local authorities. A huge problem in the UK where services are deeply fragmented. ‘The UK’s infrastructure is not sufficiently equipped to efficiently process these materials yet, not to mention the value reduction of a biodegradable pack vs a 100% recyclable pack”. Read the full article here.
Therefore, when the correct bins are not available, adding biodegradable and compostable packaging to a dry recycling load will contaminate the plastic waste, voiding the chances of any of the plastic being recycled. If we were to move across to this packaging when a substantial infrastructure is not in place, this would cause a problem for most of our customers to dispose on the go.
Changing the packaging on our Mini Tubs
Here on the farm we follow the ethos reduce, reuse, recycle. We understand there is a need to reduce the amount of single use plastic in the food industry while ensuring our packaging is disposed of in the correct, most readily available way. Following the launch of Blue Planet in December 2017, we have had many customer enquiries into the use of single use plastic spoons in the lid of our mini tubs. While these are 100% recyclable, we immediately contacted our tub supplier to investigate if there was an alternative solution to our plastic spoon. The only current answer to this is a wooden spoon.
The first obstacle in our way was the quality of wooden spoons. Over the last two years we have been working closely with our existing mini tub manufacturer to find a spoon that would fit in our lid. The only spoon available was made in a very thin material, this caused the spoon to break and splinter easily – not a viable option.
The next step we took was to investigate a new UK supplier of our entire mini tub lid, thus allowing us to source a better-quality spoon from external manufacturers. We received samples from alternative suppliers but unfortunately we were unable to source a lid that would fit securely onto our tub – crucial to ensure there is no contamination of the products.
So, how about purchasing a whole new tub? Sadly, this is not as easy as it sounds. Our current packaging is bespoke to fit our factory equipment. Hand filled tubs (like the 125ml tubs we create for the Royal Collection) are extremely time consuming, and as we produce over 7 million Marshfield Farm mini tubs a year, filling every tub by hand is not an option.
After many months of trials, we continued to work with our UK mini tub manufacturer who managed to retool his machine that makes our mini tubs, enabling a change to the lip dimensions of the tub. This has allowed us to fit an external lid sourced from overseas containing a better-quality wooden spoon in a cardboard lid.
Ordering new packaging can take 4 – 5 months and new artwork has already been commissioned and ordered for our first batch of mini tubs to feature a cardboard lid and new wooden spoon. These will be rolled out in the new year as a small trial on our Plant Based Vanilla 125ml tub (more news of that new, dairy free flavour coming soon!) If this packaging trial proves successful, we will be transitioning all our tubs to a card lid and wooden spoon alternative by Summer 2020.
Thank you for reading our packaging update. We hope that sharing our story with you gives you confidence that even as a small family business we are dedicated to making a difference.