Plastic, in case you hadn't heard, is doing its best to eff up our environment for good.
Plastic islands, fat-bergs, wildlife choking on straws and single-use plastic; the future is not looking good if we don't do something and fast.As a fashion brand, we're hyper-aware of our impact on the environment not least because the clothing and textile industry is one of the worst offenders when it comes to environmental transgressions. Packaging and postage was one of our biggest bug bears. We'd cringe every time we sent a package in an Aus Post pack.
Here we were talking the talk about lessening our impact, and we couldn't even find a non-plastic packaging to send our ethical clothing out in.
After a good year of searching all corners of the internet, we'd almost given up hope and then we stumbled across The Better Packaging Co.
Created by two enterprising friends from New Zealand, Kate Bezar and Rebecca Percasky, The Better Packaging Co. is all about shifting away from our waste-filled linear economy to a circular economy. Using corn starch, recycled resin and limestone quarry waste Kate and Rebecca have produced a revolutionary range of home compostable courier satchels, jiffy and poly bags.
To celebrate the fact that we found them (hooray), and that we are one of the company's 'Better Friends', we took five minutes with the inspiring duo talk challenges of filling a gap in the market, why good things take time and their top tips for living a waste-free lifestyle.
Tell us a bit about The Better Packaging Co. and what you do?
The Better Packaging Co. was formed by Rebecca and I as a means to try to reduce the amount of plastic generated by the eCommerce industry. Basically we develop alternatives to single-use plastic bags which stick around for thousands of years. We have a range of home compostable courier satchels/jiffy bags and poly bags, which are used in the fashion industry a LOT. When you buy something online, it has to get to you safe and dry; it’s one area where people just can’t BYO packaging/bags, because they aren’t there when it’s packed.
It’s also the one part of the supply chain where producers really struggle to maintain their commitment to doing things better.
Many are going to a lot of trouble now to source and produce their clothing, homewares and food ethically and sustainably, but when it comes to sending their goods to customers, there just were no better options, until now! Even recycled/recyclable cardboard boxes, I hate to say, consume vast quantities of energy and water when produced… So that’s where we come in!
What was the reason you started down The Better Packaging path?
Rebecca and I were working together on tech start-up called StarShipIT – she is one of the co-founders and I was consulting to them on their branding and communications. StarShipIT is pretty nifty software which automates the process of managing and dispatching orders for eCommerce merchants. As it moved out of start-up phase and became more established, Rebecca’s plan was always to step back from it and potentially into something else. Through StarShipIT, she’d seen firsthand the extraordinary growth in eCommerce and, as a self-proclaimed ‘Green Nut’, began to think about the implications for the environment of all the packaging required to individually parcel things up and send them out. She began to research more environmentally friendly alternatives and came to me with the idea. I had sold my magazine, Dumbo feather, a years earlier and was up for a new challenge, something equally purpose-driven and in line with my values, and where I thought I could truly make a difference. I had no hesitation in teaming up with Rebecca and it’s been the ride of our lives ever since.
Can you explain how it's made, how it works and why it's better for the environment?
So we have two ranges, each with different benefits, and let’s face it, shortcomings. Nothing is perfect, yet, but we think these options are a lot better. One range is partly made from plants and is certified home-compostable so you can just pop it in with your food scraps and within six months or so, it will be gone. The other is made from limestone quarry waste and recycled resin in a process which uses no trees, water, nasties (like bleach or acid) and generates zero waste. It’s pretty awesome. Theoretically, it can also be recycled with your milk bottles, but in practice the recycling industry is so messed up in Australia and NZ, that we can’t guarantee they would be recycled.
How long did it take to develop?
Let’s just say it’s taken a lot longer than we ever thought! Finding these materials, ensuring they are what they say they are, establishing supplier relationships, making sure they have the required certifications, developing trust and a willingness to go on a journey together … It’s been a massive process and it continues.
What are the biggest challenges of creating a plastic-free packaging solution?
One of the hardest things is being completely honest about our products in an industry prone to ‘green-washing’ is actually quite tough.
We often see others making claims about products that we know are just simply not true and it’s pretty frustrating. Even this question deserves clarification if we’re completely honest because in a way our products do contain plastic, it’s just that it’s not ‘traditional’ plastic, but a substance engineered to behave like plastic except in a compost environment, when it will start to break down really quickly. So another challenge is to educate people around terminology and misconceptions because it can all be pretty confusing!
How do you think we best address the current plastic crisis?
Unfortunately recycling more is not the silver bullet – for the moment at least. Instead we need to drastically reduce our plastic consumption by reusing packaging wherever possible, bringing our own takeaway containers, coffee cups, carry bags … Try to shop at bulk bin stores and fill your own containers. You don’t have to go cold turkey, but every little bit counts! And, start composting, if you’re not already. Food scraps are a huge contributor to landfill and methane emissions.
On a national and global level, we need systemic change. By that I mean, FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] companies need to design out single-use plastics from their packaging and develop circular solutions instead. Banning single-use plastic bags is a great start. People can bring their own and sometimes it is a matter of forcing people to develop new habits through legislation. Remember how people used to smoke on planes? One day we’ll feel like that about consuming 10 plastic bags every time we went to the supermarket!
Want to see The Better Packaging Co. difference for yourself? THE M|N|ML orders are despatching now with comPOST packaging, so get shopping!