FAQs - Packaging & plastic
Here you'll find the answers to the questions we're often asked about our current packaging and our future plans.
I’m disappointed to see you are using plastic. Are there plans to change this?
Reducing environmental impact is in our DNA and we only use packaging where it’s essential. In some instances we use plastic to protect succulent fruit and veg (such as leafy greens) from dehydration, which would otherwise lead to food waste. We are working hard to remove the minimal plastic we use, and by December 2020 our fruit and veg will be 100% plastic free. In the meantime, we’ll take back (along with your box to be reused) any plastic packaging that your local council won’t recycle, and we’ll dispose of it responsibly.
My salad pack says that it’s not recyclable, I’m confused?
The plastic salad bags are recyclable. Unfortunately, they have a misprint on the label; it has both the recycling symbol and instructions that say it’s not recyclable. We have spotted this and changed the artwork, but incorrect ones will still be going out until we run through all our existing stock. Sorry for the confusion in the meantime.
Can’t you just wrap my meat in greaseproof paper like my butcher does?
For food quality and legal food safety, we must use sealed plastic packaging. We have switched from black to clear meat trays, as they are more recyclable.
Why do you use packaging at all, can’t it all be loose?
Wherever possible we pack items loose, but we need packaging in some instances. For example, without packaging, leafy greens would dehydrate, fragile items such as tomatoes and mushrooms would be easily damaged, and we wouldn’t be able to weigh out portions of items such as carrots to make sure we are giving you the weight we advertised (a legal requirement).
When suitable, we use cardboard punnets/paper bags, but for some produce, paper bags aren't an option. If we were to use paper for leafy greens and salad, the paper very quickly draws moisture from the produce and reduces its shelf life and quality, resulting in food waste.
Where do used plastic bags go once they are returned to Riverford?
We send returned plastic bags to our recycler, who have a zero to landfill policy.
Why does your milk come in plastic bottles? Why don’t you use glass?
The Riverford Dairy use recyclable plastic bottles for several reasons. The first is quality; as the bottles can be properly sealed, the shelf life is improved, helping to avoid food waste. The plastic bottles are also more widely recyclable than cartons and are made partly from recycled plastic.
Why can't all packaging be returned and reused by Riverford?
Food hygiene laws put a limit on what we can reuse. We always want to take back and reuse the main cardboard boxes (which we can reuse up to 10 times), as well as the chill bags and ice packs. We’ll also take back any plastic packaging your local council won’t recycle, and we’ll have it disposed of responsibly.
When will customers start to see the new packaging in boxes?
We’ll start introducing home compostable packaging in Spring 2020. By December 2020, our fruit and veg will be 100% plastic free.
How do I know if packaging is home compostable?
We will label packaging with information about what it is made from and how to dispose of it, announcing changes as we go via social media, newsletters and emails.
Will you still use paper and card?
Yes, we will still use paper bags and reusable cardboard veg boxes.
Is there anything you won’t be able to use home compostable packaging for?
Currently some products don’t have home compostable alternatives. For these, we will use recycled or recyclable plastic wherever possible. We are working with all our suppliers to keep a close eye on sustainable solutions as they develop. This is a complex and evolving subject and there are no simple or unchanging solutions.
What should I do with the new fruit punnets?
The punnets can be recycled with your cardboard waste, or they can be composted. Cardboard sleeves can be recycled.
Why haven’t you used card punnets before?
We’ve not been able to use our usual card punnets for berries, peaches and other fruit because they are abrasive and dehydrate the fruit. The new punnets have been developed with specific fruit and veg in mind to make sure the quality is maintained.
Where are the punnets made?
The punnets are made in Canada and travel to the UK via boat.
What kind of tree do they come from? Are they FSC certified?
Our punnets are all derived from wood pulp as a byproduct or recycled paper - no virgin wood is harvested to produce the punnets. All the pulp comes from FSC certified forests.
Home compostable packaging
Why home compostable?
By December 2020 our fruit and veg will be 100% plastic free. After thoroughly researching our options, we’ve decided to move to home compostable packaging as a replacement because:
- The UK currently has over 31 different kerbside collection regimes, which means that very little plastic that is technically recyclable is actually recycled
- • 42% of our customers report composting at home on a compost heap or allotment
- If you don’t compost at home, you will be able to send it back to us with your box and we’ll dispose of it responsibly
What is home compostable packaging made from?
Mainly plant cellulose, which breaks down with no micro-plastics into its component parts, eg. oxygen and CO2.
I don’t have a compost heap at home. What are the alternative options?
Some councils will take back home compostable materials in food bins/green waste bins. If yours doesn’t, you can send it back to us with your box and we’ll dispose of it responsibly.
What is the difference between compostable and home compostable packaging?
Compostable packaging can only biologically decompose and disintegrate in a commercial composting facility. It requires high temperatures (over 55 degrees) to break down. Home compostable packaging will break down at lower temperatures on a home compost heap or garden/allotment.
Do you have any concerns about home compostable packaging?
As with many major changes, there are a couple of risks, but we’ve considered how to mitigate them:
- Home compostable packaging can look very similar to plastic, so we will clearly label what it is and how to dispose of it.
- We will only use home compostable packaging made from sustainable, non-GM and, where derived from trees, FSC-accredited materials.
You can also find out more about our current packaging and future plans at the links below:Thoughtful packaging >>
Home compostable packaging >>
Less plastic than supermarkets? >>