Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Barilla Pasta, the commitment to a sustainable packaging.


As a good Italian girl I had to begin by writing a post on an attractive topic for people who are fond of the Mediterranean diet: pasta, popular in Europe and the world for its nutrients, quality and its versatility to be presented in a thousand ways.

However, those who are fond of pasta know that it is almost impossible to buy in bulk, with the exception of - at least in Italy - fresh and stuffed pasta. In supermarkets, however, it is only packaged in bags made of plastic, usually polypropylene, a material generally recyclable but a synthetic derivative of oil, a fossil resource that will run out.

Fortunately there is still a brand of pasta sold in cartons. That’s Barilla, one of the most famous brands of pasta in Italy and abroad. The cardboard is a renewable and more sustainable material, being fully recyclable, often more easily than plastics.

Barilla, in fact, has always emphasised an environmentally sensitive approach to its production:

"...For Barilla, ecology means investing in total quality and cost reduction, beginning with that of the packaging..."


The company has recently reduced weight and volume of packaging by reducing the use of corrugated cardboard and plastic film and using recyclable paper.

Barilla is constantly improving its manufacturing plants, which are already considered low-impact regarding the environment. The plants have been equipped with sophisticated sewage purification facilities. Heat recovery systems were also installed, recycling heat produced by the steam in the process of drying of pasta.”*

In choosing the material for pasta packaging, the use of heterogeneous materials has been reduced against more homogeneous ones, making it lighter and easier for disposal after use. The plastic ‘window’, was removed from its box design, not only using a single material, but eliminating a working phase for packaging, with the related environmental impacts in terms of less energy, reduced waste of material and no plastic. Elements that were not 'eco-compatible, such as as inks were eliminated too.

The size of the boxes has been reduced, minimizing gaps in packaging. Compared to the old type of box, it has been achieved a 6-8% savings on packaging material, also guaranteeing the optimization of storage units and reducing the number of resources needed for transportation.
In February 2000 this earned Barilla, the 1st prize for the reduction of packaging for distribution, awarded by COMIECO (the National Consortium of Recovery and Recycling of Cellulose-Based Packaging).**

In 2007, even with COMIECO, Barilla has launched a collaboration to promote better recycling of cardboard packaging, so that today it is one of the few brands that exhibits clear recycling symbols on packaging.


In Italy, we welcome the efforts of this great pasta manufacturer, and we hope that further steps towards eco-sustainability can be made, perhaps with the launch of outlets for bulk products and with the supply of organic flour to ensure a product of total goodness, health and minimal environmental impact.

References:
*From a document of University of Pisa, Department of Agricultural Economics of Farm, Forest and Territory)
** Barilla document in Day of the Food Packaging and the Environment - October Cibustech 2005)

Friday, 17 April 2009

An argument for reusable packaging: resealable containers

Photocredit: Copyright Karen Cannard
featuring Country Farm Meats, Great Barton, Suffolk.

One of the key challenges to Zero Waste shopping has been avoiding plastic packaging. It's universal. However, the last 12 months has seen a personal effort focused on reducing landfill content, where plastic once comprised 30% of my household's waste and significant progress has been made.

The use of resealable containers and a return to a practice before the widespread application of disposable plastic packaging has proved to be the answer for reducing waste when purchasing loose produce of all kinds. The range includes meat, fish, cheese, fruit, vegetables, coffee beans, chocolates, home cosmetics and toiletries as well as take-away meals. There are exceptions for cooking and baking ingredients which are always plastic packaged.

The majority of the items are sold in local shops or specialised retailers with supermarkets having the widest potential for accepting container use, although there can be an awkwardness in dealing with staff there due to corporate practices and health and safety standards.

Superstores should realise that reusable packaging is good for the environment. If taken to a natural conclusion, there would be no packaging waste at all. A truly sustainable system of trading would be achieved, making Landfill and the more recent Incineration activity irrelevant or minimal.

Some leading superstores have proven to be co-operative in packaging fish/meat/dairy produce in reusable containers presented by the customer. Sainsbury's has proved best with Morrison's and Asda slightly more complicated.

While some products are easier to manage than others, the aim should be to increase the range of items, with food commodities top of the list. Unpackaged, a London shop-based business, provides access to the likes of desiccated coconut, dried fruit, rice and many other items. This could be the basis for countrywide trading. A link with other businesses, including superstores, would be one way to achieve that.

I would ask superstores to think "reusable" for their stores. They have non-customer type packages which are reusable, why not apply that throughout the business. After all they often sell food storage containers in the store, so why not encourage customers to buy them and reuse them for their shopping?

***

Lakeland also offers a wide range of portable food storage containers as well as the more ubiquitous Tupperware. Why not check them out at www.lakeland.co.uk, www.tupperware.co.uk or the international site www.tupperware.com. If you prefer to avoid plastic storage systems, airtight stainless steel containers are also available from Canadian company www.lifewithoutplastic.com.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Plastic-free Easter Eggs from Nestlé UK



With Easter now upon us, it's interesting to hear the news from Nestlé that they've reduced packaging across the entire Easter egg range by 30%, and have gone plastic-free on nearly all the range.

According to Nestlé, it's the first time a big manufacturer has done so, and it's in response to consumers requesting these kind of changes, a move that is expected to save almost 700 tonnes of waste this year.

The company has conducted research into consumer attitudes to Easter eggs, and it turns out that British consumers are pretty eco-minded. More than half of Brits admit they have previously been put off Easter treats by excessive packaging (55%), but half of shoppers questioned said they would actually ditch their usual egg in favour of one with reduced packaging (51%). Two thirds of UK adults will be giving Easter eggs this year (64%), with the average Brit handing out two and a half eggs each.

Other interesting statistics are shared below.

*All small and medium eggs (80% of Nestlé's total range), from favourite brands such as SMARTIES®, KIT KAT®, AERO® and MILKY BAR®, will now come in a cardboard basket, which is easily recyclable

*Nestlé is also providing clear recycling information on the back of the boxes to help consumers

*The sweets inside SMARTIES® and MILKY BAR® small eggs have also had their plastic packaging removed

*Because eggs are more compact, the move will save 48,000 road miles in transporting Easter eggs

*The 30% reduction exceeds the WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) industry agreement to reduce medium egg carton weight by 25%

*Overall waste from all Easter eggs sold in UK in 2006 - 4,500 tonnes p.a. WRAP

*Waste saved by Nestlé's packaging reduction: 700 tonnes in 2009

*Nestlé sells one in four of the UK's Easter eggs Neilsen, data to w/e 22 March 08

*Easter chocolate sales represent 10% of Britain's annual chocolate sales

*Nestlé Confectionery will produce 25 million chocolate eggs for Easter 2009

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Have you tried the Onya Weigh Bags?
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Emma Cooper (UK)

Emma Cooper (UK)
Gardening writer, podcaster and creator of www.coopette.com

Shirley Lewis (UK)

Shirley Lewis (UK)
Journalist and Founder of Baglady Productions. Based in Northern Ireland Shirley promotes living ASAP (as sustainably as possible)

Tracey Smith (UK)

Tracey Smith (UK)
Author of The Book of Rubbish Ideas and founder of International Downshifting Week.

Loredana Cramarossa (Italy)

Loredana Cramarossa (Italy)
Creator of the bilingual Dandaworld blog, Loredana is able to share what's happening in Italy
 

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