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Packaging and the environment

We are often asked about the packaging we use - with particular regard to Soda Crystals and Liquid Soap. Soda Crystals and the old 'dry' soap flakes used to be supplied in a cardboard box.

Soda Crystals are actually a 'wet' product and the reason why they can go hard if they reach over 32oC. The water content would seep out of a cardboard box. Even when they were supplied in a cardboard box, many years ago, they had a plastic bag inside. Some customers complained that a box wasn't ideal for pouring the crystals, particularly if they'd started to clump together. A wax lined cardboard box is also not a viable option as they are not recycled.

The new bag is therefore more practical and uses less materials overall and certainly less energy in its production. Although plastic bags are technically recyclable, such facilities are not routinely supplied by UK local authorities. We are however investigating the possibility of swapping the plastic bag to one that is recyclable. It won't stand up on shelf, so may be harder to spot but we'll announce any changes in advance.

The soap in Liquid Soap is different to the dry version; it's not simply dissolved flakes. There is actually less energy used in its production and although we have to use a plastic bottle, it's PET so is widely recyclable. It's not practical for us to use recycled plastic in the bottle for regulatory/hygiene reasons. The market dictated a move in the product formulation from flakes to liquid because the former was not suitable for use in automatic washing machines. They are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Bicarbonate of Soda, Citric Acid and Borax Substitute ARE all suitable for packing in cardboard boxes. We use recycled cardboard for these products.

In summary, you sometimes have to look at the OVERALL environmental impact and we always look at ways of minimising our carbon footprint wherever practical, as well as being an ethical supplier. For example, we don't use palm oil in our Liquid Soap. We always welcome any comments from customers, so do please get in touch: leave feedback in the Comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Related Articles

Plastic pollution – is there a simple solution?

Soda Crystals gone hard?

http://www.bpf.co.uk/Sustainability/sustainability-of-plastics.aspx

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “Packaging and the environment

  1. Could you make a larger pack size more widely available for the soda crystals? That would instantly reduce the amount of plastic used. A recycled alternative would be great.
    Really appreciate all the information you’ve provided about your efforts to combat excess plastic use BTW.

    1. Hi Joanna

      You can buy a 1.5kg bag from Waitrose and Wilko. Our sister company ELCO also supplies 10kg and 25kg bags to Chinese wholesalers. In 2019 we will be swapping the bag for a single sheet, recyclable plastic.

  2. Thanks Paul for your Company’s commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. Re liquid soap: would cartons which are widely recyclable be better appropriate for this application?

    1. Unfortunately we don’t have a filling line for such bottles. As we manufacture our own plastic bottles, we can do them economically and why we can take steps to increase the proportion of recycled material that is used in their manufacture.

      From a sustainability point of view, as we understand it, those cartons have a wax lining and cannot be economically recycled, unlike plastic.

  3. I’ve been using liquid soap flakes and soda crystals for a while and use them for pretty much everything! I’ve been using Ecover laundry conditioner but it’s been sold out to an animal testing company so looking for a replacement. Do you do a laundry conditioner or are you planning to?

    1. Hi Sophia – no…and yes. There’s no real need for fabric conditioner. If your towels are going stiff, then the fabcon is playing a major role in that. It’s designed to cling, so it clogs fibres. The good news is that you can use white vinegar. Here’s why we believe you should ditch the fabric softener.

  4. Thank you for your explanation as to why you use plastic bags for your soda crystals. Can I make a suggestion – I have bought other soda crystals manly in Poundworld/Poundland in white plastic contains that can be recycled. Why can’t you put them in the same plastic containers or the plastic ones used for milk? These are recyclable unlike a lot of plastic bags and can stand up on the shelf and less likely to leak.

    1. Hi Brenda – those other ‘Soda Crystals’ you talk of aren’t Soda Crystals, they’re actually Soda Ash. They’re getting harder to find as retailers and consumers realise that they aren’t as effective for the vast majority of uses. Because ours have water molecules added, it means that if you inadvertently let them get hot and go hard , then at least you can still get them out of a bag safely. More here

      1. And yet Ecodoo supply soda crystals in a cardboard box – no plastic packaging at all. If another manufacturer is able to use packaging that won’t choke the environment, why can’t you? Please rethink your policy as it just stops zero-wasters, and others with an environmental conscience, from using a product that really should fit their ideology perfectly.

        1. Hi Hilary – Without having a box for us to examine, it’s likely that the Ecodoo box will have some form of plastic or waxed lining that will make it difficult to recycle. It appears to have a metal spout which will CERTAINLY make it very difficult to recycle. That’s before we even mention the price of the product! At those prices, a number of customers that buy the product for it’s practical applications, rather than its green credentials will switch to other products that will most likely be packaged in a plastic bottle eg drain cleaners. The good news however is that we are in talks with packaging suppliers to switch to a recyclable plastic bag; we hope that this will be in place by the autumn, so please keep checking back for updates.

          1. Fair point Paul. I’ve not purchased their product so I can’t comment on whether or not there’s a lining to the interior. The metal spout would obviously need to be removed for recycling and many of us are accustomed to dismantling packaging, in order to recycle something that started out as a mixed-media product.
            I agree also, that people have varying motivations for using your product and if cost is at the forefront, they would, indeed, move to something else if they felt the price had become prohibitive.
            I’m still sorry to hear that your potential solution is to move to a “recyclable” plastic bag. Just because something theoretically can be recycled, doesn’t mean it will happen. My own local authority does not accept any plastic bags for recycling and they’re not unusual in this. I do wish you’d look at a biodegradable solution, rather than something that is nominally recyclable.

          2. Hi again – we have spoken to the film manufacturers about this option and they point out that even the existing ‘biodegradable plastics’ are only compostable by the industry and not by the general public; so they would have to go back to the retailer anyway. In addition to switching to recyclable plastic on Soda Crystals, we are trialing plastic bottles that have a percentage of their composition from recycled plastic. It’s also worth pointing out that any of these decisions aren’t ‘flick of the switch’ decisions. EVEN if we could get instant approval from the retailers’ Technical departments, it has HUGE implications for our production. Packing lines cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, so simply swapping from plastic to cardboard just isn’t possible. Because of the growth in popularity of our traditional cleaning products packed in cardboard (such as Bicarb, Citric Acid and Borax Substitute), the line that packs those products is already at capacity. Please be assured that we are doing everything we practically can; there’s also an element of waiting for the packaging manufacturers to deliver more sustainable solutions. With ‘plastic’ being so high on the agenda, they are starting to ‘up their game’.

  5. You say Cambridge recycles laminated plastic, which means it already has a recycling code ~ if not a “plastic resin code” (a number inside a triangle) then a “Mobius loop” (an empty triangle) which, according to http://www.recyclenow.com, indicates that an item is “capable of being recycled”.

    If that code was on your soda crystal bags, those of us who can recycle them would then be able to do so, & those of us who cannot could then present those bags to our local authority as an example of products overlooked by its environmental departments.

    1. Hi Jackie – we believe the plant in question is Enval and not recycling the kind of laminate we use. We are currently investigating the implications of switching to a single plastic bag for Soda Crystals, that WILL be recyclable. We expect to know more by the autumn.

  6. We are a family of 7 who are trying to go plastic free having watched ‘a plastic ocean’ an amazing documentary which explains that only a small amount of plastic gets recycled and plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely, maybe one or two times. All plastic that is ever created still exists on the planet. It breaks up into smaller pieces but it never breaks down. 80% of the plastic in the sea comes from the land! For me that is the bigger picture and for the sake of future generations. There must be natural alternatives to plastic. Plant based Waxed paper bags? Glass bottles might use more energy in production but at least it can be recycled like for like or reused where as From what I have read plastic has to be degraded and the cycle is not infinite but glass is. We really want to buy soda crystals in something other than plastic! Please hear us and help us! Thank you

  7. Will you consider looking at a recyclable plastic pouch or tetra-brick type carton to package your liquid soap, so less plastic is used ?

    1. Hi Mike
      Although we are always willing to look at pragmatic packing solutions, there are a couple of reasons why we can’t just now:
      1. We don’t have the production facilities. Even if it were proven that there was overwhelming customer demand, the investment required would be huge
      2. Costs would be increased and it is HIGHLY unlikely that the retailers would accept any increase. So the end result would be reduced availability; something we’ve worked hard on.

      Remember that the plastic bottles ARE recyclable themselves. Although the caps aren’t, that’s because no plastic caps are currently recycled in the UK as far as we are aware.

  8. Has dri-pak looked into using glass bottles for packaging as an alternative to plastic?
    Or are there any places that let you fill up your own bottle?

    1. Hi Sarah – this is another case of looking at the whole picture. In this instance, there are a number of reasons but the simple fact is that it involves different production facilities.
      The energy used in manufacturing glass, coupled with the much greater weight and associated transport costs (and thereby vehicle emissions) would mean that any potential environmental benefits are more than outweighed. The plastic bottles we use can be recycled.
      There are no retailers that would be prepared to offer a refill service that we are aware of.

      1. Have you asked local farmers markets for their views on ‘no retailers that would be prepared to offer a refill service’? Almost ALL farmers markets offer cleaning product in bulk to be downloaded in the customers own bottles, boxes etc

        1. Although we would have no objections to that in principle, they probably wouldn’t be able to meet our minimum order requirements and don’t have the resources to try and find them. Our business model and whole production operation is geared around packing and selling retail quantities, although our sister company does supply the ag and industrial sectors with some dry bulk products http://www.eastlancschemical.com/

  9. Why is the laminate packaging, which no council can recycle as you say above, not being replaced by a plastic that can be recycled easily and widely? What is the point of using a practically not recyclable packaging?

    1. Without using a laminate, the bag would not stand up. Because retailers want people to see the front of the bag, so they know what they are buying at a glance, this dictates the packaging. Even if it were in a box, the crystals would have to be in a bag inside as it’s a wet product. We realise it’s not an ideal solution, but we have to try to strike a balance between ideals and pragmatism. It does look like progress is being made in recycling laminated plastic so it might be worth contacting your Local Authority to see if they have plans to follow Cambridge’s lead.

  10. Can the plastic packaging used for soda crystals be recycled? I cannot find any indication on the packaging to show what type of plastic it is made from.
    Many thanks

    1. The plastic bag is a laminate and although in theory it can be recycled, we’re not aware of any local authorities that do so.

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