Growing, packing and delivering your food puts us in a unique position to use as little packaging as possible. From using 82% less plastic than supermarkets, to reusing our veg boxes up to 10 times, we’re constantly working to minimise waste. By December 2020, our fruit and veg will be 100% plastic free.

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. By December 2020 our fruit and veg will be 100% plastic free
  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 or recycling.

Our iconic reusable boxes are made from 98% recycled materials, and are 100% recyclable. They’re designed to be reused many times over. 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 recycle any of our other packaging through your local council? Leave it out with your box and we’ll recycle it back at the farm. This is very labour intensive for us, but until most local authorities offer better sorting facilities, it’s the only way to recycle them reliably.

82% less plastic than supermarkets

We only use plastic when it’s absolutely necessary to prevent food waste, and we’re always finding ways to use less. To see how we’re progressing, we asked independent researchers Savanta to compare our plastic use with that of seven leading UK supermarkets.

The results? Riverford’s veg boxes contain 82% less plastic than the equivalent packaged products from major UK supermarkets!

Read the independent study

The future – 100% plastic free fruit & veg

After many months of intensive research, we’ve decided on the sustainable future of our packaging. By the end of 2020, all our veg boxes and fruit & veg will be 100% plastic free.

Some packaging we’ve removed completely, some we are replacing with paper or card – and some will be made of home compostable materials. Whether on your compost heap at home or through your food waste bin, home compostable packaging doesn’t take long to break down completely, even at low temperatures.

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 continued our dedication to using the minimum plastic possible. However, we can’t do without plastic-like materials 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.

Better for the environment – easy for you

When we transfer to home compostable packaging, you’ll easily be able to make sure it's properly disposed of.

  • Pop it on your compost heap at home
  • Send it back to us with your box
  • Some councils will take back compostable packaging in food waste bins – your local veg team will find out whether this is possible in your area, and let you know

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 will be very clearly labelling what they are and how to dispose of them
  • We will 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 will be educating everyone on how to dispose of the new packaging responsibly

1.5 tonnes of plastic saved per year by…

  • Swapping to compostable beech nets, saving 180km of plastic netting per year. We were the first UK company to use this innovative solution.

  • Unwrapping popular veg after testing them without plastic, such as romanesco and cauliflower. Most of our customers are happy to trim off a few tatty outer leaves to save a bag.

  • Moving 430,000 items into recyclable packaging

We’ve also reduced paper bags by 120,277 per year! We like paper, and it’s the best material for storing unwashed root veg – but from a C02 perspective, it’s far from benign. In most cases, paper bags (even if recycled and made from unbleached paper, as ours are) have a substantially higher carbon footprint than the equivalent plastic bag.

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 recyclable 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 guides 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 veg box packaging guide

View recipe box packaging guide