Sticky Chai Packaging, Greenwashing and Kittens
On average, over 5 million tonnes of packaging is discarded in Australia every year.Do we realise how much this is? Let's put that into perspective - One tonne is 100kg. One kitten weighs approximately 200g.
5 million tonnes is 2.5 billion (2,500,000,000) kittens.
Only half (1.25 billion kittens) of this is recycled and the other half ends up in landfill. Landfill produces toxins and leachate which pollute the soil and groundwater.
Unfortunately the food and beverage industry in Australia is slow to adopt packaging practices that actively reduces their and their customers’ contribution to the landfill problem.
What's more concerning is the growing trend of greenwashing - the deceitful practice where companies market themselves and their products as environmentally friendly, or give their customers the impression that their products and packaging are environmentally-friendly, when in fact, they aren't. We see subtle forms of greenwashing in everyday packaging but it is enough to give customers a feeling of "wholesomeness" and "doing good"- and who doesn't want to feel like they're doing something good?
Packaging Sticky Chai
Sticky Chai is a challenging product to package. Because it is a wet product, the packaging used needs to be food-safe, shelf-stable and must not disintegrate. The cheapest and most commonly used packaging by companies selling Sticky Chai blends are kraft paper puches and tubes, and vinyl bags.
Kraft paper pouches and tubes.
These beige paper bags and tube canisters visually communicate a natural product, a wholesome product, one that is good for the environment, recyclable. This, my friends, is a lie, and is a clear example of "greenwashing".
Whilst the exterior of the packaging is made of paper, the pouches (and in many instances, the tubes) are laminated with plastic foil. This creates a barrier between the wet chai mix and the cardboard. But paper is recyclable. Plastic is recyclable. What’s the problem?
The problem arises when both materials are laminated together. With our current technology, paper is recycled using water, and plastic is recycled using heat. The vastly different recycling requirements of these two materials renders Kraft paper pouches and lined tubes not recyclable.
Some cardboard tubes are unlined and in those instances, the Sticky Chai blend is encased in a plastic sleeve. Most of these sleeves are made of vinyl, which cannot be recycled. In the event that the sleeve is made of a plastic that can be recycled through the REDCycle program, think of the emissions produced by manufacturing not one, but TWO forms of packaging and the emissions produced by then having to recycle both. It's just flat-out wasteful.
Again, you might get the impression that these beige forms of packaging is good for the environment - beige really does bring that to mind for some reason- but the truth is, it just misleads customers and contributes to landfill.
Not all soft plastics are created equal. Vinyl-based plastics cannot be recycled. Not even through the soft plastics recycling program offered by REDCycle. Unfortunately, most plastic pouches used are made of vinyl, simply because it's cheap to manufacture. Companies packaging their Sticky Chai blends using vinyl packaging literally don't give a crap about their impact on the environment. Harsh, but true.
Recyclable and Biodegradable and plastics.
The truth about biodegradable/ compostable plastics is that we just don't have the technology right now to manufacture food-safe bio plastic that is home-compostable and is suitable for wet foods like Sticky Chai. The biodegradable and industrially-compostable plastics available today degrade when exposed to moisture and there is the risk of chemicals leaching into your Chai.
Once the technology is available (and doesn't cost an arm), The Chai Villain will be switching over to home-compostable plastic for its packaging. In the meantime, we have the next best thing - recyclable plastic.
Remember - not all soft plastics can be recycled. If a company does not expressly-state that their packaging can be recycled, it most likely isn't. Fully- recyclable soft plastic pouches are indeed made from plastic, but at least this plastic can be processed and made into other things.
Glass is absolutely a fantastic option for Sticky Chai, but it is problematic to transport as it is heavy and takes up more space (more expensive to ship and consequently higher emissions) and requires additional packaging to ensure it doesn't shatter during shipping. It is also expensive, which makes it difficult for a small business like us to bring affordable Chai to you.
WE NEED TO STOP THESE KITTENS GOING TO LANDFILL.
So choose recyclable/ compostable/ biodegradable packaging and don't be fooled by greenwashing. And remember to take your empty bag of The Chai Villain's Sticky Chai blends to the REDCycle collection point at your local Coles or Woolies.