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Organic farmers and nationwide veg box deliverers, Riverford, have ditched plastic nets used to pack onions, citrus fruits and sprouts in favour of a compostable alternative made from beech tree pulp...
Wood, making a net?
Riverford ditches plastic nets in favour of biodegradable alternative
Organic farmers and nationwide veg box deliverers, Riverford, have ditched plastic nets used to pack onions, citrus fruits and sprouts in favour of a compostable alternative made from beech tree pulp.
The nets are made by biogenic packaging company VPZ , based in Austria, from wood that is a by-product of the forestry industry. When trees in PEFC-certified sustainable forests grow to a certain height, some are thinned out to give the remaining trees space and light to grow.
The wood is then chipped and broken down further into pulp, spun into a string-like material, then knitted together into a net tube, ready for use.
As the first UK business to use the nets, Riverford are excited to see what people think.
Riverford’s dedicated packaging technologist, Robyn Copley-Wilkins, explained, “As much as people (ourselves included!) might wish that we could do without packaging entirely, it plays a huge part in ensuring product quality and enabling distribution through our whole supply chain. A net made from wood sounds strange, but actually works beautifully, and is very environmentally friendly”.
In general, Riverford’s ethos with packaging is less is more; if the product is robust enough to travel without being damaged, they pack it loose in a recyclable box. Nets are used for onions and citrus fruit that are packaged for people to add to their veg box and rely on nets to distribute equal-weight portions that can be added to veg boxes.
Riverford are currently reviewing all existing packaging, making sure it reflects their ethics and are always looking at ways to improve and so ensure they maintain their sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly status.
Riverford was founded when Guy Watson started growing organic veg on the family farm in Devon, with a wheelbarrow and a borrowed tractor in 1987. His pioneering veg box scheme now sends out around 47,000 boxes a week to a loyal band of customers who share his commitment to fresh, seasonal food, produced with respect to customers, staff, farmers, livestock and the environment. From the start, the business has minimised its environmental impact, from the way food is grown through to how it is packed and delivered. In 2018 Riverford will become employee-owned. The Riverford veg box was also named Ethical Product of the Decade by The Observer.
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