Guy’s news: Packaging; an apology for drifting

As we prepare for employee ownership I’m writing an ethos statement to be included in the documentation. “Only dead fish go with the flow” made it in there and seems to embody our independent spirit. However staff pointed out that going with the flow can conserve energy for more important battles, that it can be soothing to drift along with others, and sometimes everyone else is right.
On reflection the principle should be knowing when to drift, and when to swim.

In 2007 we did some swimming. A collaboration with Exeter University informed an environmental policy which challenged many popular, intuitive views of the time. We abandoned our tentative move towards biofuels, stopped using biodegradable plastic bags, stopped using UK heated glass houses and argued that plastic often has a lower carbon footprint than paper. Plastic marine pollution was not a widely recognised issue at the time; our assumption was that climate change was the main challenge facing our planet.

Through recessions, an IT crisis, and the collapse and recovery of the organic market, we’ve swum in other areas but drifted on packaging. In our defence, we encouraged you to return packaging for us to sort, reuse or recycle, but the problem is that we’ve drifted into using too much packaging in the first place. There’s always a reason: reducing wilting and waste, separating allergens,
maintaining temperature requirements, carrying vital labels, and occasionally, because it makes our lives and systems easier. But we’ve drifted too far and need to challenge those pressures. That should have come from me but I am ashamed to say it has come from feedback from you, our customers.

Please be assured that we have woken up; all packaging is being critically challenged. We have already moved from plastic to biodegradable nets made from wood and you will see other changes in coming weeks. We’re not going to jump into degradable plastics, or from plastic to paper, without investing in substantial research first. So this is an apology for not living up to the expectations we’ve courted and a promise that we’ve heard you and will change as quickly as we can. While we may be way ahead of most retailers in this area, we have drifted too long.

Guy Singh-Watson

93 responses to “Guy’s news: Packaging; an apology for drifting

  1. Way to go Guy! At least you have woken up and realised the error of your ways and acted upon it! Kudos to you, whether or not you or anyone else had the idea is irrelevant! We all need to wake up and smell the coffee so to speak!

  2. Carolyn Westlake

    Thank you for listening. I have expressed my views on my packaged veg a couple of times and look forward to when my butternut squash and swede does not come in a plastic bag. I love the brown paper bags though whether they are ecological ( weighing more than plastic) I don’t know. I just make sure I use them again, mostly for lining my compost bin.

  3. Would it be possible to rethink the plastic milk bottles ?

    • Hi Sue,

      It’s a lovely idea but we don’t have any plans to change at the moment. Glass would be tricky for a few reasons, including:
      Limited space at The Riverford Dairy for a water cleaning facility (it’s only small)
      A huge amount of energy and water needed to run the washing facility
      Glass uses a lot of energy to make
      Many bottles wouldn’t get returned to us
      Breakages in vans
      Shorter use by date with milk

      The bottles are made from over 50% recycled plastic and are fully recyclable. Hope this makes sense. Any more questions just ask.

      • As far as I can tell, plastic recycling is basically an illusion – let alone “full recyclability” in plastic. Plastic can only be recycled a few times at best, and recycled plastic always has to be mixed with new plastic, meaning that recycling plastic actually requires continuously increasing the total amount of plastic in the world. This ever-expanding quantity of plastic will then be around to muck things up for living things around the planet for the next however many hundreds or thousands of years, after being used for a few minutes, hours, or days. If you can point us to any well-documented alternative to the complete abandonment of plastic, please do. In the meantime as a Riverford customer I’m looking forward to an announcement in the near future that the company will be phasing out *all* plastic packaging. Ahead of the laws that will eventually be made when people wake up more fully to the reality.

  4. Great news. I have always avoided plastic where ever possible and re-use as much as I can and return boxes etc to you. Brown paper bags are lovely and I am happy to receive my orders loose in the box. Every step forward is a step in the right direction, so keep up the great work and thanks!

  5. Excellent, good news, topical but real issue.
    Eggs are are genuinely plastic free product, we use reusable trays to move them around the farm then pack them into recycled cardboard cartons and into cardboard boxes are returned each week and reused. If we get cartons back we then reuse these in our farm shop. And like alot of nature’s produce, eggs come in their own packaging so no need so cling film or plastic!

  6. Hi. Could this news letter be wholly online and not included in paper form with the delivery?

    • Hi Jane, this is a good suggestion as it would save a lot of paper, but a lot of our customers are likely to miss out if it wasn’t in the box. We feel Guy’s updates are an important part of being a Riverford customer and don’t want people to miss out.

      • Why not have customers be able to Define their preferences on their account as to whether they only want online newsletters, or paper copy.

        • That’s an excellent idea

        • Yes, absolutely this. I truly love the recipe/content insert but I would be prepared to forgo it in my quest to produce less waste. If we had the option then I would definitely opt out. I’m not sure why we aren’t given it.

      • I can see reasons behind going on line but do not forget there are people out there who for many good reasons are not on line. An opt in or out option might be good.

        As for an apology, most people are trying to improve and do the best they can, can’t ask for more.

        Must admit I can never understand why so many people walk around with a plastic bottle of water, even if just going up the road and back. We don’t live in the Sahara.

  7. I am so pleased you are going to drop the plastic . Going for biodegradable nets is great. Also back with the brown bags Yay! I always reuse mine and then they go in the compost.

    And I miss the paper list. I have carers unpack for me and we need the list to check all is ok. Oh well. I am pleased with the changes coming.

  8. Please don’t beat yourself up Guy. We can only try to do the right thing with the thinking that exists at any one time – goodness knows we’ve all made what seem to be poor decisions in retrospect. At least we’re trying to get it right which is the best we fallible humans can do!

  9. Lesley Somerville

    Don’t be ashamed; be proud that you have garnered a growing army of customers who care as much as you do and support all your initiatives, enabling Riverford to show the way and be a leading light in the organic movement. I can’t tell you how proud I am to play my own small part in it.

  10. Thank you Guy for being so concious about the environment even though you have so much else to concern you. I do not mind my orders loose in the box . Would it be an idea to ask your customers if they would prefer this and go from there. It may be too much hassle i do not know ,just a thought.

  11. As with many people I do want to limit the amount of plastic walking in with the groceries. One simple thing I have done with my Riverford order is to have tomatoes in 480g amounts (varying between 1 or 2 a week as needed) rather than, as formerly, getting the 750 g size which comes in plastic. We use the cardboard containers to collect our peelings etc, which they then join in the compost heap.

  12. I cannot think of another company I deal with that listens to and acts on , the feedback from his/her customers, with the intent on improving the service and guarding the environment -you will continue to occasionally get it wrong but your intentions are clear- non’t weaken!!

  13. It’s important to note that plastic is a carcinogen. No food or drink should ever, ever, EVER be wrapped in or be inside plastic. Biodegradable plastic is even worse, as at a microscopic level it’ll be biodegrading into your food and drink giving you cancer.

    • Thanks Tommy, for bringing up this vitally important point.

      • Except there’s no real evidence for that claim. None.

        • Of course there is. Plastic IS a carcinogen, that’s just fact. If you don’t believe me melt some and lick it everyday, let us know how you get on in 10 years time.

          formaldehyde and styrene, dioxin and BPA, asbestos is also used in the making of plastics, Bischloromethylether & chloromethylethylether, vinyl chloride, Acrylonitrile, 2-Aminoanthrauinone and the list of carcinogenic ingredients in plastics goes on and on and on and on. Why do you think the chemicals come in barrels with great big skull & crossbones on them?

          The hotter the plastic the more, at a microscropic level, these toxins (carcinogens) are being released into your food and drink.

          • YOu were asked to provide evidence for that claim. So do please provide some. Peer-reviewed evidence please.

    • Do you have evidence for that claim, Tommy? “Plastic is a carcinogen. No food or drink should ever, ever, EVER be wrapped in or be inside plastic.” If you have some evidence for that, please provide it, and please don’t make claims like that without providing the evidence at the same time.

      • Thanks for that link Amanda – I see that ‘Tommy’ just repeats his claims and still doesn’t give any provenance for the information, it seems he may have fallem prey to the many hoaxes referred to in the article from Cancer Reasearch UK – I prefer to trust their information!

        • You’re welcome, Bobbi. I’ve noticed the repeated claims without any sources whatsoever. NOt the way I work at all, and not the way anyone works if they wish to be taken seriously. If one is going to make a claim (and make that claim repeatedly) one must be prepared to provide some evidence for that claim, or retract it.

      • Are you just trolling? I listed carcinogens in plastic and you just say “herr duhh nope they not carcinogens” a quick Google of the ingredients will show you they are. And they’re only the VERY FEW chemical toxins that make up plastic.

        The burden isn’t on me to prove it. That’s like asking someone to prove gravity exists. You’re not floating in space are you?

        Plastic is a carcinogen as it contains carcinogenic chemical toxins as its ingredients. Like I said, if you truly don’t believe me melt some and give it a lick twice a day everyday and let us know how that goes for you.

        • Tommy. You made a claim, therefore the onus is on you to back up that claim. I’ve already provided counter-evidence from the cancer research people. I’m interested to see the evidence for the claim you’ve made. Asking for evidence is not trolling. It’s just asking for evidence, which you really should have provided when you made the claim in the first place. .

          • I have no horse in this race, but I don’t see anybody presenting evidence here. That Cancer Research page consists of general claims about evidence without references, not evidence. Also, scientific history is littered with claims of no harm preceding findings of harm (Check out the history of “Undark”). Famously of course, absence of evidence is not equivalent to evidence of absence. Establishing causal connections in complex real-world contexts is very hard. Here’s a study that appears to run in the direction of concerns about carcinogens in plastic packaging.

            That’s worth whatever it’s worth. Since we should be quitting plastic for other reasons anyway, hopefully this debate becomes obsolete.

          • The Cancer UK site gives links to, among others, Johns Hopkins University in USA. I know from my husbands deep research into his Prostate Cancer that this is a most respected world source of information about anything connected with cancer.

          • No you listed a site that says dioxin isn’t in plastic water bottles, which is somewhat true (depending on what country you’re from).

            But plastic is made from MANY carcinogens, including the kind of plastic used for sandwich wraps and tupperware. I already listed some of the more deadlier ingredients.

            Not sure how much the plastic companies are paying you to troll but it’s just chemistry 101 if something is made out of carcinogens then that something is carcinogenic. Why you think you can claim that something made out of carcinogens can be magically un-carcinogenic I don’t know.

            If you want to keep using plastic then nobody is stopping you, but I don’t want it near my food or drink.

  14. Interesting, honest article, as ever, Guy.
    Tricky subject packaging. Question is: what else do you package such produce as lettuce, salad leaves etc in? And do you resort to glass for your milk? Good luck with your deliberations. You are ahead of the rest and will remain so, I’m sure.

    • It really is a minefield Sue, and there are some items like lettuce for which there is no alternative to plastic. Therefore our mission is simply to do the best we can. Thank you for the luck.

  15. When I was playing on the beach in Dorset in the early 1970’s, I was amazed and excited to find a French yogurt pot in the sea! Why, because we had never seen a plastic food container before! How things changed.
    When Exeter university in did their research in 2007, most of us were very aware of the effects of plastic to Marine life, surely they considered this at the time? I will have to re-read the paper.
    Good luck in finding a solution. I have a number of ideas.

  16. This is very much appreciated, Guy. Thank you.

    However, one thing that’s been a real issue in this discussion of plastic overuse is the tone of voice used by the social media team, at times. It has been quite offputting.

    I think clear(er) brand guidelines and training are needed so that those responding to customers on social platforms understand that any criticisms levelled are towards the business, not them personally – and, crucially, that they are responding as the business. Pretty sure ‘defensiveness’ and ‘rudeness’ don’t feature in Riverford’s core values! Haven’t had this issue with the phone team, but have seen it several times from social. People wouldn’t bother commenting at all if they didn’t love and value Riverford so much, they’d just walk away.

    Can Riverford also please start labelling products that will come in plastic on the product page, and beside the product name on the box contents page? Perhaps just with a ‘P’? I’m sure many would opt out of certain products if we knew in advance that our choice also included plastic.

    • Hi Anna, thank you for your honest feedback. We apologise if you feel some responses have been somewhat defensive and will of course look into this.
      In terms of adding packaging information to the website, this is a very good suggestion and something we are currently looking into doing. We hope to add a symbol and information on the product page along with the storage, cooking etc information.

    • I agree, specifying what products come in plastic on the product page would be enormously helpful.

  17. Love the loose box order…love the fact that you think and care so much.
    I send back most of my packaging but will now add the egg boxes…didn’t know…letting you know that I wouldn’t mind the packaging looking a little tired.
    Rock on Riverford.

  18. Thank you, thank you. I was almost at the point of writing to Guy as the amount of packaging just seemed to keep on increasing. Great to see Riverford not afraid to admit mistakes and change direction.

    Whilst plastic maybe less impactful on the environment in certain situations I’m sure this is done to the vast economies of scale and research that has gone into this material. If the same had happened with card, cardboard and paper then maybe the situation would be different.

    Time for us all to look to the future and rid ourselves of plastic and the impact it is having on our environment. Would be great to see British Universities and Organisations taking a lead to look for and use new materials. Great to see Riverford once again taking a lead and getting hands dirty

  19. Really pleased to read this post Guy. Looking forward to seeing the changes in due course . I just wish more people would bite the bullet & make the changes needed! I for one would be very happy to have more things loose but am aware of the juggling act needed. I always make my own boxes up which makes it more difficult than the regular boxes!

  20. This is great news for our household as I’ve stopped ordering some things because they were coming in hard plastic packaging. My rare visits to the supermarket are taking even longer now I’m trying to avoid as much single use plastic, palm oil, air-freighted etc etc.
    You can’t be right all the time and thank you for listening to your customers!

  21. It’s really refreshing to find that a food supplier does not use plastic more than is absolutely nessesary and is trying to reduce use even further. I love how most of your produce is loose or in paper. I have one issue with the plastic containers used for your meat. My local authority can’t recycle black plastic. Is it possible to use clear plastic?

  22. Riverford rocks Guy! As a new customer, I love that you all care about what you do, the customers, the environment, the suppliers and are striving to make the world a better place through great organic produce. Love too the honest communications. Looks like new customers and old are with you every step of the way.

  23. Would you be able to reuse the cardboard punnets (e.g. for mushrooms and tomatoes) if customers were to leave these to be returned in the big boxes? Apologies if this has already been addressed elsewhere.

  24. I haven’t noticed plastic at all – but I have felt that there has been overpackaging – eg 2 fennels – come in individual paper bags…

  25. I do understand but what I cannot is why my order of 2 mangoes need to come firstly in a plastic bag and, secondly inside a different one each. TWO PLASTIC BAGS when they could go directly into the box or into a paper bag.

  26. Guy. I am a new customer and I am sorry to say that I was unaware that the egg boxes could be recycled. Does this apply to the mushroom and tomato boxes as well. I am sorry if this has been explained elsewhere. I love the contents of the boxes.

  27. The plastic issue is a minefield. Do we use more energy to produce paper or reduce energy and make plastic? Will we run out of the raw materials for plastic? If people disposed of their plastic rubbish properly it wouldn’t get into the sea, or would it???
    Then there’s landfill. Will it get too full of plastic. The scientists have a lot of work to do, and consumers must be more thoughtful

  28. Regarding plastic milk bottles. If they are made of 50% recycled plastic, you are always going to need new plastic, and without a never-increasing customer base, you will always have bottles that cannot be recycled.

    The tetra-pack type cartons you used to use were much better for the environment, whatever your social media people say.

  29. I’m all for less packaging – happily recall the days when we went shopping for veg with a bag and the veg were tipped straight in from the scales, roots on the bottom and cauli on the top! I don’t see why this shouldn’t be done with the boxes. Particularly if we could have the root veg with a protective bit of mud like we used to!

    I agree with the comment about the replies on the FB page – maybe they are just trying to be brief but they don’t sound like Riverford!

  30. Mr. Benjamin Frost

    I, too, miss the milk in cartons. I’d prefer it in those again or glass.

  31. Hi Guy, I’m one of *those* customers who’s been making a fuss about packaging. In fact, I cancelled my account this week after a mango came in a plastic bag. I’ve had a good dialogue with your team over email, and do appreciate the challenges. I’ve been pushing for a ‘plastic free box’ option, but also think the idea of listing the packaging used is a great one. On the suggestion of your team, I’d ordered items individually, to try and select plastic free choices, which was why I was so dismayed ‘mango-gate’. I’ve switched to Oddbox as they can guarantee a plastic free delivery (but not organic) but will happily return to Riverford once there’s been enough progress on plastics. But don’t be too down on yourself! You are such a lovely business! x

  32. I am glad I have read this. I have had a slow burning resentment of the black plastic trays I receive when ordering chicken wings or other meat products. I know they are not recycled in cornwall and that they will go to landfill. I was on the point of stopping using riverford, I also don’t like the plastic milk bottles contributing to the plastic mountain. I am looking into what our local milkman uses. I want to know that you are helping to lead the way on all of this not drifting. Otherwise why would we order from you? As a totally organic business our expectations are higher of you,and the plastic problem really upsets us all.
    We have stopped using tea bags loose leaf tea is great! And a SodaStream for that luxury fizzy water is a revelation.
    As a household we are examining and eliminating every bit of plastic that has made its way through our door. Coffee sealed pouches are next.
    Help us to enjoy the experience of using Riverford even more please.

  33. Also, we in North Cornwall can recycle plastic food trays – but not if they are black. So please could you use clear or non-black trays for meat?

    While we should be cutting use of fossil fuels, it’s important to realise that cleaning up the seas will also impact on carbon, for the oceans are an important part of the Earth’s carbon-recycling system, so the two are not mutually exclusive.

  34. I am all for reducing plastic of any shape or form but has anyone done any research on wildlife, particularly birds being caught in these biodegradable nets? A step in the right direction but I would like to see them phased out completely. Perhaps Guy could make customers aware of the hazards of nets to wildlife and ask people who compost them to ensure they are well buried.
    I also agree with the comments on dirty veg, it keeps much better, I can remenber shopping with my mother with a woven rush basket, dirtiest, heaviest in first and cleanest lightest last, not a bag in sight!

  35. Hi Guy, I was thinking about when I used to shop with my mom, in the fifties, we always took our own shopping bags, the one for veg and fruit was wipable. Potatoes weighed and went in first, and carrots, onions etc, all loose just went on top, followed by apples and salad. not a bag in sight, except the one we’d brought. We could provide our own and attach a label. just a thought.

  36. In my experience Exeter University seem to be very anti alternative/complementary lifestyles. I seem to remember they have/ used to have an interest in complementary medicine but it seemed all they wanted to do was debunk it, homeopathy in particular was a target.

    • Homeopathy is probably a target because it’s so easy to debunk the use of ‘magic water’. I was really concerned to read that one of the dairies use homeopathy on their cows, and was wary of ordering any dairy products that use that particular source.

      We do appreciate the packaging issues. We have a good compost heap, so all cardboard packaging will go in there.

  37. Very happy to read this, Guy! We very much appreciate our Riverford deliveries but there are some things (celery, cucumber…) that I had decided not to order, or only to order now and then, because of the packaging. I like the suggestion that a couple of people have made – to show on the website what type of packaging is used for single items.

  38. julieann Hartley-Young

    I’d be more than happy for some items to be in the box without a bag, if that cuts down on packaging slightly, every bit helps, also I don’t mind at all if several things are in the same bag. Also I read a reply from Guy which said some things have to go in plastic bags such as lettuce. Why is that, why can’t lettuce go in a paper bag? I think it boils down to using the least damaging packaging and using the least of it possible. Until I read these posts, I didn’t realise that things became carcinogenic simply by being wrapped in plastic, that is shocking!

  39. I trust in Riverford to adopt best practice with regard to plastic. It is so important that we address this issue and I know you will lead the way and do the right thing. You have total support from your loyal customers. I would be happy to elect to receive the newsletter online. If anyone can succeed in this challenge against plastic it’s you

  40. Happy to hear that. It would have almost made me turn elsewhere.

  41. As a new customer of Riverford and one that has moved specifically to reduce waste (while still having excellent produce), I am really pleased to see this post. I was disappointed upon receiving my first order to see the meat in plastic packaging and while I got a response explaining why, it did lead me to question if I should continue to order meat from Riverford. As part of this review, I’d love to see:

    – More two way discussion with customers on their thoughts on packaging and what compromises customers would make to help Riverford reduce packaging
    – Clear identification of the type of packaging that each product comes in so you can opt out of packaging you want to avoid

  42. Paper bags are great for fruit and veg, but not really suitable for meat if they are not waterproof. Does waxed paper cause problems for the environment? I wonder whether it could be used if waterproof packaging is necessary, such as for meat. As a natural product, perhaps it could be an alternative to plastic. It may not be easy to recycle it, but if we reuse most of our packaging from Riverford, it may last longer than paper bags that are not waxed. I’m not sure if it is possible to recycle waxed paper.

  43. We have had milk in glass bottles delivered since I came to this address in 1955. Although in Greater London there has always been a traditional milkman in this area. It was so convenient when I was working as a newly-wed to have this available. Now at 86, however, if I have to top-up from a local shop a plastic bottle is essential because of its lighter weight to carry when walking and I usually buy two small plastic containers rather than one huge carton weighing me down on one side of the shopping bag. I also like plastic rather than glass if I decide to buy a fruit drink whilst out shopping because of the lighter weight. I almost never buy mineral water – always carry tap water with me in my own lightweight container ( usually plastic ). Another thing – you have asked for ice packs to be returned to Riverford as I always put these in the bottom of my freezer and put in a freezr bag to be collected but none of your staff seem to be able to collect, possibly no room in the vans. I now don’t bother as it is a lot of extra work and I might as well get rid of these items down the sink on the day I receive meat items etc. Incidentally my milkman is now delivering a lot of other goods as well, including toilet rolls but they only have one brand of bread and other items. Maybe you could link-up with these dairies in order to provide a wider and organic choice.

  44. Elizabeth Kingsmill

    Your willingness to admit to ‘drift’ on the packaging issue shows significant humility – a rare virtue these days!
    Regarding milk packaging, I understand the difficulties in the use of glass bottles: ‘Limited space at The Riverford Dairy for a water cleaning facility (it’s only small)
    A huge amount of energy and water needed to run the washing facility
    Glass uses a lot of energy to make
    Many bottles wouldn’t get returned to us
    Breakages in vans
    Shorter use by date with milk

    And, presumably a switch to glass bottles would involve a new bottling system which would doubtless be horrendously expensive?

    In relation to the last 4 issues, would it be possible, in theory at least, to use glass bottles with silicone sleeves or bottles made out of stainless steel or another stable metal, in each case with sturdy lids (not thin metal caps which break/allow leakage)? I realise either of these would be expensive but I would be happy to pay a ‘bottle deposit’. Such bottles would also last a good length of time. Would it be worth surveying Riverford customers about a deposit scheme? (Obviously ££ not pennies!)
    However, as you have pointed out the Riverford dairy is small and a washing facility would need space that you do not have. And what would the cost be to Riverford? I would also be happy to pay more for milk to avoid plastic and have it in a stable material. But would you be able to recoup the cost of a bottle washing facility just supposing you had/somehow acquired the space, through a price increase?

    Oh, and what about yogurt and cream? And a kefir supplier who uses glass?

    • I’m another vote for glass bottles and second the suggestion of a deposit idea. I would be willing to shoulder an upfront cost to have milk in glass again.

  45. Cath Coffey mentioned right at the top that she wouldn’t mind the packaging being used looking a little tired, if it means they are being used over and over again and I was thinking exactly the same. I also take off the labels carefully from the delivery boxes in the hope that if this is done, then they will be able to be used more than the 10 times stated on the box. I also didn’t know you could reuse the egg boxes again, so I will be returning these weekly too.
    Thanks again from my wildlife for the Sunflowers. Can’t wait until they are available again next year. 🙂

    • is that really true about the egg boxes? – I didn’t realise anything beyond the cardboard boxes could be re-used – there may be some other things I could return….

    • I agree that I would be happy for the bags to be reused again. Makes sense. I will also take off the labels if this helps. Happy to have the greens in one bag and that to be re-used again and again. Cucumber and celery to my mind, don’t need their plastic sleeves.

      I enjoy reading Guy’s interesting articles. Happy to read on line if saves paper.

      Well done Guy for being upfront about the packaging. Good to see people being honest rather than making excuses or avoiding the subject.

      Sunflower was loved by the birds. Went in a flash! Thank you. Much appreciated. Like the sharing. 🙂

  46. Philippa Hutchinson

    Well said Guy – it’s a great feeling for a customer to know they’ve been heard. Also thanks for mentioning that egg boxes can be returned.

  47. Julieann Hartley-Young

    Thanks for the email link Amanda, much appreciated.

  48. I’d be very happy to have all the veg loose and not in bags – it’s what I do when I shop in our local market. What does it matter of the carrots and onions get a bit mixed up – sort it out when you unpack the box!

  49. I am happy to receive my delivery with only the vulnerable (i .e. tomatoes) separately wrapped. However, is there any way customers could be encouraged not to store the excellent boxes, in the week before they are returned to you, in parts of their homes where scented household cleaners ( i. e.laundry powder) are kept? These perfumes may easily invade fruit and vegetables, and , although I cannot imagine anyone who cares enough about their health, as well as the planet, to buy non-organic cleaners, if they did, I do not care to absorb these poisons via your marvellous produce.

  50. Donna Whittington

    Great news! Don’t beat yourselves up though. I recently tried a different recipe box supplier and was shocked to find that none of the packaging is returnable. I recycled what I could and I’m going to use the insulating wadding to make dog mats for my camper van.

  51. The plastic bags that the salad leaves come in display two contradictory statements about recycling them: they have the triangular plastic recycling number on them, suggesting they can be recycled, while simultaneously stating in words that they are NOT recyclable. Which is it please?

  52. Thank you for listening Guy. The whole ethos of signing up to Riverford 9 years ago when my baby came along was to be eating wonderful produce without the excess packaging. Slowly it’s crept into your boxes and being a cancer survivor I detest anything plastic in contact with my food. I can tolerate toxins in recycled cardboard boxes as it’s a short term solution for transportation but there must be a zero tolerance for plastic. What about the salad you hear? What about a whole lettuce instead! Good luck – the solution is there in the food you choose and research offer not the packaging.

  53. You know I was just going to write to you about the plastic tub my tomatoes came in this week which i was a bit disappointed with. In fact, everything but the fresh herbs comes straight out the packet once in my home so I would appreciate everything just put in the box anyway. Low packaging is one of the many reasons I get my veg delivered in a box, and I am ok with the fact a few soft items might get a bit bashed, it is a small pay-off. I have never been disappointed with the quality of the veg, and I am proud to be a customer of such an ethical company who listens to their customers.

  54. Since guy started this by speaking about standards slipping, I have to comment that having just logged in to add a swede to my order, I see that garden peas are on offer – surely the idea originally was to offer veg that was in season – there is no way this can apply to garden peas! And of course they would come in a plastic bag……..

  55. I understand that letuce etc needs to be in plastic to prevent wilting and that plastic is trasferred to the food which is then ingested.
    How about using the material made from starch as in some compost bags you can buy on a roll in supermarkets?
    I use the paper bags to collect my compost and are a great carbon addition to my pile but sometimes I have too many of them.
    Due to strict dietary requirements I don’t buy the ready boxes but get individual items.

  56. Pingback: Ten Things | Moral Fibres - UK Eco Green Blog

  57. Am afraid I too have been on the point of ending ten years of loyal custom over plastic. Especially when I began to explore ‘zero waste’. I’m always so so impressed with the quality, customer service and ethic of the company. It would cause me great sadness to leave. I noticed that Guy mentioned a historical disinterest in on-site composting. Perhaps that’s part of the problem. Not seeing the impact of waste as integral to the energy dynamic. Where, after all, is ‘away’? Home composting is a salutary lesson in the non-biodegradability of plastics. You know the odd bag that goes in the compost bin and is still there a year later when you’re turning it out… And I guess the recent news from China teaches us the truth about recyclable plastic – it’s a myth. My worm-bin loves Riverford paper bags… But I asked for a P on the website six months ago.. And many box schemes are now doing a plastic free option. Trying to decide what to do next?

  58. How did we manage before we had plastic??!! And we most certainly did–
    There must be people with some workable bright ideas out there!
    Paper? Straw? Anything organic and biodegradable?
    Perhaps some of our Grandparents can help us out?
    Granny usually knew best from my experience

  59. I am a very new customer and have been very happy with the quality of your produce. However, like a lot of people I have been trying in the last year to reduce my use of single use plastic to as close to zero as I can. So, with this in mind I have been very sad to see the amount of plastic in my Riverford box.

    For example, today I have bread in plastic, greens in plastic, blueberries in plastic. I am standing here feeling frustrated that I have contributed to this unnecessary waste. This makes it almost impossible to justify to myself any continued use of Riverford versus going back to my local baker and greengrocer (who are very good, so it is already a close decision). I already make use of local milkman and cheese shop in preference to Riverford because they can offer plastic free goods.

    I would love to be able to support Riverford and the environmental principles that I can see you have worked so hard for. I appreciate that you have now turned your focus to reducing unnecessary packaging, and I understand that you have thought about these things harder and for longer than many if not most of us. However please could you give an estimated time scale on when you will be able to offer a plastic free box? Like many others, I would be happy to accept some damage or just to accept that some products are not well suited to home delivery because they are too delicate and require too much packaging. I just feel so frustrated that my efforts to cut out packaging seem to have been sabotaged by a company I would really like to support .

  60. I have just discovered the UK seasonal Box! I never knew it existed, it arrived today with only UK veg that are in season, and NO plastic!
    It’s really too much for just the two of us but I’ll get round that by ordering once a fortnight instead of weekly.

    Thaks Riverford – but you should put that box at the top of the list not hidden away at the bottom!

    • I do that – the fortnightly thing, then the other weeks, I top up. Cheese, wine!, fruit, broccoli – got to have broccoli!! Or something very green.

      • There was kale in my box – I love kale! So many things you can do with it. I cooked James Martin’s Chicken Bonne Femme tonight – next time I will add kale as it could do with some more veg.

  61. julieann Hartley-Young

    The little plastic container that my blue berries come in could easily be recycled like the cardboard boxes are. Those little plastic containers would actually last a great deal longer too! I’m returning it with the cardboard as I order blue berries with each order.

  62. Hi Guy, a belated thank you for this acknowledgement. It makes me admire and love Riverford all the more that you can admit where you have been less than perfect. But as all of us customers know, Riverford is pretty near perfect, so not to worry! Listening to customers and taking in new information is a sign of strength.
    Can I ask that you consider a plastic free box? It could contain exactly the same produce but without packaging, going to customers who would accept that some of the produce outer leaves would be wilted, and they’d be prepared to rehydrate. Alternatively, certain produce in such a box could be wrapped in cabbage or rhubarb leaves or waxed paper – the latter being returned to you for reuse?
    Also, please consider a cardboard/glass option for milk for customers who want to be plastic free. I for one would restart ordering milk through you again if it could be delivered in cardboard or glass.
    Thanks again, Kirsten Downer

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