Ethics & ethos

Thoughtful packaging

What we use, and what you can do with it.

Growing, packing and delivering your food puts us in a unique position to use as little packaging as possible. From sending lots of produce loose, to reusing our iconic veg boxes up to 10 times, we’re constantly working to minimise waste. Our fruit and veg packaging is now home compostable, where packaging is needed at all.

Here’s what we use, why we use it, and what you can do to make sure it’s disposed of responsibly.

Our packaging promise

  1. Our fruit and veg packaging is now home compostable, where packaging is needed at all
  2. Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is our mission
  3. We think long term, balancing the three issues of climate change, marine and land pollution, and food waste

We’ll collect your packaging!

Because we deliver ourselves and rely on repeat business with environmentally motivated customers, we’re strongly placed to collect our packaging for reuse, recycling or composting.

Our iconic reusable boxes are made from 98% recycled materials, and are 100% recyclable. They’re designed to be reused up to 10 times. If all our customers returned their veg boxes, this would save almost 22,000 trees’ worth of cardboard every year.

Can’t compost or recycle our other packaging through your local council? Leave it out with your box, and we’ll make sure it’s recycled or composted here at the farm. If it’s compostable, we’ll use it to grow more veg!

Home compostable packaging on our fruit & veg

After many months of intensive research, we decided on the sustainable future of our packaging. Our fruit and veg packaging is now home compostable, where packaging is needed at all.

Once disposed of, these super sustainable materials disintegrate into pieces smaller than 2mm within six months, and properly biodegrade (breaking down not into microplastics, but into carbon dioxide, water vapour and organic matter, just like a plant decomposing) within a year. They break down like this even in low temperatures, such as your home compost heap.

Preview of a compostable infographicView our Home compostable packaging infographic

The problem with plastic

Cheap, strong, flexible, with a lower carbon footprint than paper and infinite uses… In many ways, plastics are brilliant. It’s no wonder that the world has become increasingly reliant on them.

Unfortunately, carbon footprint isn’t the only environmental issue to be considered: staggering amounts of plastic are ending up in our oceans, endangering marine life.

We’ve removed as much packaging as possible (in 2020, our veg boxes used 82% less plastic than supermarket organic veg). However, we can’t do without plastic-like material completely; without it, certain leafy veg would dehydrate before reaching your door, resulting in massive food waste. Here’s what happened when we tested sending Swiss chard without plastic bags:

Swiss chard looking wilted after no-plastic test

Our solution: home compostable packaging

You may have heard bad things about ‘degradable’ or ‘compostable’ plastics. There are many different types, and some are worse for the environment than conventional plastic. As well as being non-recyclable, they require high temperatures break down, meaning they don’t biodegrade if they end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Home compostable packaging is different. It’s made from renewable raw materials, and breaks down at low temperatures. Many types are even certified to completely break down in marine environments, so they won’t cause harm if they do mistakenly end up in the ocean.

An impressive 82.5% of our customers compost their food or garden waste (based on a survey of 10,240 current Riverford customers – July 2018). This, combined with our well-honed system of collecting packaging to bring back to the farm for reuse, composting or recycling, convinced us that home compostable packaging is the right solution for us.

We can’t use it for absolutely everything yet; a few items (such as meat) will still need to be packaged in plastic. But as now, we will use recycled or recyclable plastic wherever possible – and we’ll be keeping a close eye on future sustainable solutions as they develop.

Home compostable packaging

Better for the environment – easy for you

You can easily make sure our home compostable packaging is properly disposed of.

  1. Pop it on your compost heap at home
  2. Add it to your council composting bin (if your local council accepts it)
  3. Can’t compost it at home? Send it back to us with your box – we’ll compost it at the farm, and use it to grow more veg

Any concerns?

As with any major change, there are a few risks - but we’ve considered carefully how to mitigate them.

  • Some home compostable materials can be confused with normal plastics, so we have very clearly labelled what they are and how to dispose of them
  • We only use home compostable packaging made from sustainable, non-GM and, where derived from trees, FSC-accredited materials
  • Compostable materials can lead to increases in littering. We trust our customers, and are educating everyone on how to dispose of the new packaging responsibly

Why don’t you send all your veg loose?

Some packaging is a necessary evil. Moist, leafy veg such as lettuces and spinach wilt and lose quality quickly in contact with the air. Without paper to shade them, potatoes turn green. And loose root veg (a system we tried many years ago) roll around and make a mess of both the clean produce and the boxes.

We must always balance the environmental impact of packaging against the impact of the food waste that would occur if we didn’t use it.

Although we can’t be rid of the stuff completely, we do work hard to use only what’s necessary to preserve the quality of the produce.

Recycling guide

We can’t reuse a box that isn’t returned to us, and a home compostable bag is no good to man nor beast if you send it to landfill. If you want to reduce the environmental impact of your box, the best thing you can do is follow the PDF guide below and make sure that as much of our packaging as possible doesn’t go to waste.

Please make sure that all items you leave out for our drivers to collect are reasonably clean.

View our packaging and recycling guide

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