Packaging - what we use and why we use it!

NOV 2019 UPDATE

So our trials with recyclable film for the sachets didn't work, but we have made some progress in other areas. We've now removed the laminate film from the recipe cards and are using a slightly heavier weight material so they should still survive in your kitchen if you wanted to keep them (and make the recipes again using the new Spicery Larder!). Laminating these cards always felt slightly overdoing it, so hopefully you won't even notice the difference! 

We've also removed the plastic laminate from the Curry Legend paperbacks which has actually made the colours really pop, as we hadn't realised that the plastic film actually dulled down the brightness a bit. 

We think they look really good, and hopefully you do too! 

JULY 2019 UPDATE

The tests have been completed, and the new (potentially!) recyclable plastic film for the sachets has proved to be.....a bit of a disaster!

1 rather long sachet, 1 rather short one - not very helpful for us to pack your ingredients in!

As mentioned below, the problem we have with our sachets in terms of reducing our waste is that the material used to make them consists of at least 3 different types of plastic, all of which have completely different properties. The reason the material is like this is there isn't a single type of plastic that combines strength, rigidity, flexibility, clarity and sealability, and so the materials are mixed to give the benefits of all these characteristics.

The problem then becomes the fact these different materials are subsequently impossible to separate (as they all have different melting points) thus making it virtually impossible to recycle (as there is only a market for individual plastics once they've been separated). 

From what we can tell, it seems you can have one of those properties using a single type of plastic (clarity for instance), but then you wouldn't ALSO have the useful property of it being meltable to form a seal for instance, or you could have a nice flexible plastic but it wouldn't then have the resilience and strength of the mixed material. We just completed some tests on a brand new film that combines flexibility, strength and the ability to melt to form a seal, but crucially is only made from a single type of plastic making it much easier to recycle.

We'd have to sacrifice clarity for that (as the film is opaque) but that would be something we could live with. Unfortunately the film turned out to be a disaster on our machines, either melting too much or too little at the seal, and then we ended up with one long sachet and one mini one as pictured above so it seems like this isn't going to be the right solution for us. The search continues!

In the meantime, our compostable bag tester (used for the Curry Legend refills) has virtually dissolved after about 8 months sitting in a bowl of tap water, so it seems like those at least are going to help us reduce our plastic waste while leaving very little trace after they've been used. A success at last!

compostable bag dissolved in water

MAY 2019 UPDATE

We've been trialling paper bags for our Curry Legend refills with some success (at least for the Jeera seed mix which is very dry), but have stumbled across a new issue when using them for the Mirchi chilli powder blend.....

 

When using paper bags that don't have a plastic lining (and so are actually recyclable with your paper and card waste rather than the plastic-lined paper bags that feel like they should be recyclable but aren't), it turns out that chilli powder (and several other ground spices) contain too many natural oils for the paper so within 3 days we had this effect, even with a very thick paper bag:

That seems to rule paper out as a material for packaging our spices, so we've now gone back to the original compostable starch-based bag for our Curry Legend refills. Admittedly we've had one or two issues with the heat seal not being permanent enough as this material doesn't seem to be quite as easy to seal as plastic (it just doesn't melt as nicely as plastic to form a strong seal) but hopefully we've solved that now - let us know if you've had any problems recently with these bags either leaking or the seal not being quite strong enough!

 

There was an interesting Guardian article recently about biodegradable bags still being usable after 3 years(!), and it highlights the problems with these types of bags needing very specific conditions in order to break down. With our compostable bags it seems like the one in the compost bin is still taking it's time to start breaking down (after 5 months), but the one we're testing in water has really started to fall apart and dissolve - this photo is the bag after 5 months in ambient temperature tap water and it's clearly dissolving without leaving loads of tiny pieces.

By packing all our Curry Legend refills in these bags it means that the entire Curry Legend product range is heading towards being single-use plastic free which is great news. We'll look at bringing in these bags to our Spicestore soon and will keep you updated with any more progress!

  

APRIL 2019 UPDATE

Having looked in detail at all our packaging, and which materials are (or are not) recyclable or reusable, we've also been having a look at what we can do to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place.

To be totally honest, we'd always assumed we were pretty efficient and didn't waste much at all.....until we started looking at it in a bit more detail!

 

Every single month we make up to 50 different spice blends for all the various kits and spiceboxes due to be sent out at the end of that month. Each recipe is new every time, and all the various blends are specific to each recipe, so with that level of complexity accurate forecasting is key to not getting the amounts wrong (which is one of the reasons you're only able to switch your box choice up to the 15th of the month - to allow us time to pack and assemble all the various choices)

We've always tried not to waste ANY ingredients, so if there are any small amounts of blends made in excess of what's needed for packing that month, they can often be mixed with other ingredients to make our free sample blend for the following month.

We can also often reuse any excess sachets from subscription boxes to make recipe kits, plus we sell any excess finished product via the spiceboxes page, and the occasional sale.

Despite that, and the fact we were around 97% accurate in terms of predicting the number of spiceboxes to make vs the number needed to send out at the end of the month, it turned out that we were still wasting up to 4000 plastic sachets each month, which equates to over 50kg of wasted plastic per year.

We've found that by amending the production process, changing the forecasting method and the date in the month that we predict how many of each type of kit/box to produce, we've been able to massively reduce the amount of waste. Last month the excess sachet figure was only 0.16% - a potential reduction of over 40kg of plastic waste per year.

As another effect of those changes, we're now down to only a single general waste and a single recyclables bin collection per week (from 3 per week at one point), which for a factory of over 11,000 sq ft producing tens of thousands of kits and boxes per month, feels like a pretty minimal amount.

Not perfect of course, and there is still a significant amount of waste we still produce from excess packaging as well as the materials themselves not all being recyclable or reusable. We're confident that we're on the right path though and have started trialing sample biodegradable sachets so should be able to report on some more successes soon!


MARCH 2019 UPDATE

We've been testing some compostable bags for the Curry Legend refills recently and are now trialling paper bags as well with the ambition of making the whole Curry Legend range single-use plastic free soon (without compromising on the functionality of the products of course!).

The original non-recyclable plastic pouch / 100% biodegradable and recyclable paper pouch / compostable pouch made from wood pulp

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We've also had really useful feedback from our customers about the compostable bags so far (not all positive of course.....admitedly these bags don't stand up on a shelf, are not resealable and we have been having a few problems with getting a reliable heat-seal to close them, so still a work in progress!). The bags are made from wood pulp so are theoretically able to be composted at home (or can be put in your food waste bin to be collected by the local council). They should also break down completely in water (unlike standard plastics of course which have caused so many issues in rivers and oceans by not decomposing at all, even after decades in water). 

In the absence of a compost bin at Spicery HQ, we've had one in a bowl of water for the last 3 months and have been monitoring how it is disintegrating - it's working well so far, here's a picture of the pouch after 2 months in water, beginning to fall apart and create a slightly unattractive slimy pulp! If you have any experience of how they've been breaking down in a compost bin at home, please let us know (our only composter has reported very little progress in the bag breaking down in the last couple of months).

As for the paper bags - they're obviously recyclable with your card or paper waste, and stand up on a shelf (unlike the compostable bags) so will be interesting to see which you prefer.....!

Paper pouches and the compostable pouch after 2 months in water, just starting to break down





JANUARY 2019 UPDATE

With plastic and packaging in general being such a hot issue at the moment, we’ve spent some time looking into the materials we use, why we use them and if there are any better alternatives available (or any areas we can cut down on waste).



Most importantly for our products, the main aim is to give the best possible flavour when you cook with them - for this reason the spices are often added at different stages of cooking (and different blends in different dishes), so all the various component parts of our kits need to be packaged separately. The packs also need to be delivered by post so they need to be light-weight, flexible, non-breakable and also thin enough to go through a letterbox which tends to rule out glass, metal and lots of other rigid materials. 

As they’re a food product, they also need to be packed in food-safe material and sealed well so that all the effort that goes into grinding and blending them freshly isn’t wasted if they lose their scent and flavour really quickly! 

We also know that lots of you buy our products as gifts, so the outer packaging is also very important in terms of visual impact.



As you can see from the table below, most of the materials we use can be recycled by you at home as well as by us in-house, and a lot are made from recycled materials. Admittedly there are some where we're struggling to find good alternatives (plastic sachets, banding tape etc - why are you so useful but also so difficult to recycle!!) so it's not a perfect list by any means, but we are aware of this as an issue and are looking hard for any better solutions (without compromising the nature, quality and look of the product!)

In terms of progress - we're tried using a compostable pouch for Curry Legend Blend refills made from wood pulp, but after a few spillages, we're now on to testing paper bags in the next few weeks. We're also trialling a single ingredient plastic film for the sachets (rather than the current laminate material that's very hard to recycle), so will keep you updated with that. We're also looking at our own waste in-house and are continuing to look for ways to reduce or eliminate that. 

It's not easy, and it seems there are no really simple answers but we'll continue to do our best to reduce any unnecessary waste materials, and re-use and recycle wherever possible. We'll let you know when we have some solutions!

Happy Spicing!

Item

Department

Material

Why we use this

Address Labels

Easy Kits, One Pot Wonders, Subscriptions, Spicestore, Curry Legend

70gsm backing sheet/recyclable adhesive

✓ (leave on the box and recycle with your cardboard)

Standard Royal Mail issued labels

Banding Tape

Subscriptions

BOPP foil, WESSCO 66.369.6 laminating glue, BOPP film

x (made from 3 different materials which, unfortunately, makes them non recyclable)

Extremely strong to hold the contents of your spicebox in place for it’s journey! We're currently looking for alternatives to this material (but no obvious solutions yet)

Blend Storage Tins

Curry Legend

Tinplate with embossing

✓ (recycle with your cans)

Perfect for keeping the spices fresh as wel as looking great on your kitchen shelves!

Bookmarks

Curry Legend

FSC certified paper*

✓ (recycle with your paper and cardboard)

They do what they say on the tin! Recyclable in case you don't need it

Card Sleeve

Curry Legend

600mic 2 Sided SBS FBB

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

Holds tin together - universally recyclable

Cardboard Gift Box

Curry Legend

600mic 2 Sided SBS FBB

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

Recyclable but also designed to be kept as perfectly stores your Curry Legend book and blends!

Celloslips

Easy Kits

SpA film

x/✓ (theoretically recyclable with your plastics - but may vary depending on your council!)

Lightweight and convenient (but we will be testing a compostable pouch in the coming weeks)

Coloured Tissue

Curry Legend

Two ply chemicalpulp/recycled fibre mix

✓ (recycle with your paper)

Adds protection (and presentation!)

Eyelets

Easy Kits

Brass - nickle plated

✓(recycle with your tins)

Holds the kit contents together securely

Fabric Gift Bag

Subscriptions, Easy Kits

5 oz cotton

✓(leave in a non-black carrier bag with your paper recycling)

An environmentally friendly product, manufactured in a Fairtrade Accredited, ethically audited, carbon neutral factory

Happy Spicing Box

Easy Kits, One Pot Wonders, Subscriptions, Spicestore, Curry Legend

N_Flute Card

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

Non branded but colourful, perfect for gifts, sturdy edges to keep contents safe

Ingredients Bag Labels

Spicestore, Curry Legend

Glassine paper/general purpose permanent acrylic water based adhesive

✓ (if you can peel them off(!), remove from clear bags and recycle with your paper)

Food safe and stain resistant

Ingredients Bags

Spicestore, Curry Legend

BOPP/LDPE/12 mic PET / 80 mic PE

x/✓ (theoretically recyclable with your plastics - but may vary depending on your council!)

Flexible, lightweight and well sealed to keep the spices fresh! We will be trialling a non-laminate plastic in the next couple of months that will be easier to recycle, and also a compostable bag - will update you with any successes!

Invoice Paper

Easy Kits, One Pot Wonders, Spicestore, Curry Legend

90gsm Offset Paper

✓(recycle with your paper)

Matchboxes (3 parts)

Subscriptions

Carrier Board / Boxboard / Kraftboard

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

We use these three component parts as they create a really solid platform to hold your spicebox together!

Measuring Spoon

Curry Legend

Polypropylene and polystyrene

x/✓ (theoretically recyclable with your plastics - but may vary depending on your council!)

Exactly the right size for your Curry Legend cooking! No obvious alternative at the moment, but hopefully will test a metal spoon in future (once volumes are big enough to support a bespoke design!)

Outer Tin

Curry Legend

Tinplate with embossing

✓ (recycle with your tins)

Recyclable but also designed to be kept as perfectly stores your Curry Legend book and blends!

Parcel Boxes

Curry Legend

Rigid corrugated cardboard with two layers of fluting

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

These have just enough space for the Curry Legend boxes and a little void fill, making the contents well protected!

Pink Gift Cards

Easy Kits, Curry Legend

FSC certified paper*

✓ (recycle with your cardboard)

Small and colourful, perfect for a gift messages!

Promotional Leaflets/ Voucher Cards

Easy Kits, One Pot Wonders, Subscriptions, Spicestore, Curry Legend

FSC certified paper*

✓ (recycle with your paper)

We try not to inundate with leaflets and flyers but those we do send are all recyclable

Recipe Cards

Easy Kits, Subscripions, One Pot Wonders

250gsm gloss art, film laminated (vegetable inks)

X (unfortunately, these can't be recycled because they're laminated)

We laminate these so that you can keep them in good condition (and so they’ll survive the odd splash of curry sauce!). We will look into alternatives for the laminate, but nothing definite on the horizon yet!

Sealed Spice Sachets

Easy Kits, One Pot Wonders, Subscriptions

Polypropylene / PE

x/✓ (theoretically recyclable with your plastics - but may vary depending on your council!)

These keep the portioned out spices fresh and make it easy for you to add to your recipe in order. We will be trialling a non-laminate plastic in the next couple of months that will be easier to recycle, and also a compostable bag - will update you with any successes!

Void Fill Foam

Curry Legend

100% recycled EPS

BIODEGRADABLE

After testing various products this one was the most effective at protecting the products from damage in transit! Made to biodegrade in landfills, soil or water leaving no harmful residue behind

Whole Spice Bags

Subscriptions

Polyethylene

x/✓ (theoretically recyclable with your plastics - but may vary depending on your council!)

Made from Virgin Polymer and therefore should be completely recyclable and food use approved. We will be trialling a non-laminate plastic in the next couple of months that will be easier to recycle, and also a compostable bag - will update you with any successes!