We fuss about the chemicals then stick it in a plastic bottle…….
It’s launch time for a few of my customers and that means that I am in the lab cooking up some small production batches ready for sampling, first orders and marketing campaigns. It was while making one of these batches that a dark reality hit me.
I had spent ages formulating a product that contained nothing but ‘green’ chemicals, an all natural preservative/ chelating agent combo, natural emulsifier – vegetable based, beautiful oils and extracts and…… Plastic Packaging.
The plastic that my formulation is being packed into (by me) can be recycled – I checked. It has a PET 1 symbol on the bottom but still, I packed over 120 bottles – that feels like a lot of stuff coming into the world.
But there is also the waste that I create in my lab. Ingredients come in packaging too, they come in bottles – some glass, some plastic; containers; buckets and Jerry cans. Sometimes I have so many empties around that I feel a little sad about it; about the potential land-fill that I’m creating. I wonder if these are actually re-cycled or do they get sent back to china with a boat load of rubbish to be sorted or burned?
There’s also the cardboard boxes; the paper; the box fill; the packing tape.
My dogs get some of the flattened boxes as they find them comfy to sit on. I would give them proper beds but they tend to chew on them and leave fluff and rubbish all over the garden.
As I have been very busy the problem, my problem, has been magnified and I’m determined to do things a bit differently. Yes I could order more material in bulk to help the back-end of my operation create less waste but bulk means tying up lots of cash flow, an increased need for storage space, the potential for items becoming less fresh or expiring and for items becoming contaminated (potentially, if lids are left off). I feel it would be best for me to wash out, dry and re-fill wherever possible to cut down waste.
In terms of the bottles I can’t do much about that as they are specified by the customer. I’m not sure if glass is any better than plastic in this regard either. Glass is expensive to manufacture and while it is a natural material, manufacturing it leaves its own footprint. Glass is also much heavier and so places a larger burden on transport as the loads are heavier and the fragile nature of the glass means that additional packaging is required to protect it.
What a lot to consider!
I know I can personally do better and I’m enthused to do so, especially given the effort put into what goes into the bottle.
So is it worth fussing over the formula in the grand scheme of things?
Well yes, for me I think it does matter as it has given me a lens through which to see the bigger picture – the whole product footprint. I personally feel that it is entirely possible that the product packaging, handling and distribution could be more environmentally damaging than the impact from the products ingredients but that it is the whole product that sets the scene and starts a conversation for clients about values, responsible consumerism and environmental stewardship so yes, fussing over the formula is well worth it.
I now just need to widen my focus a little and that’s all good.