A few months back we made the decision to switch our pint containers from trusted old paperboard to square PET. This was a decision that was a long time coming for us, and much, much thought and concern went into our final choice. Here's a letter we got from a concerned customer, as well as the response we gave her; we hope this helps to explain why we feel good about the choice we made:
I'm in a slight panic so instead of grumbling I decided to write! What happened to your packaging!!??? Oh my, I was quite distraught at the sight of your new plastic containers. I won't buy my food in plastic so I'm now unable to buy any of your pints. I'm curious why you made the switch from the cardboard containers. I am told it is because the plastic is recyclable but we have always recylced the cardboard.
Hello Maple's Customer-
Thanks for the email! The packaging is something I labored over for a long, long time before deciding to go with the PET containers. Normally I'm right on board with you about using plastic, especially for food, but it turned out to be WAY more complicated a dilemma. Probably the trickiest one of the business so far.
The paperboard containers, I always knew, are horrible on every front. For starters, they are made from wood pulp of uncertain origin which is bleached using a chlorine-intensive process of which dioxin (one of the most toxic, carcinogenic substances) is a byproduct. Bad for trees, rivers, animals, and people. Then they are coated in a petroleum wax, as are most freezer containers. They are not recyclable... if you've been putting them into the bin, they are getting picked out and tossed or the wax on them is gunking up the works at the recycling facility. They are also very heavy (in comparison) and so require a lot of fuel to move around. Unbleached pints, which would at least be a bit better, have been taken off the market. So there is nothing at all good or eco-friendly about paperboard freezer containers, even though they are paper-based and seem like a more responsible product.
Of all the plastic options, PET is the easiest to recycle (of those that can be frozen), does not leach into our food (which is all frozen by the time it gets there, so the plastic is never degraded by high heat), and is extremely light. A case of 1000 PET pints weighs less than a case of 250 of the paperboard pints. If I thought using them was decreasing the sustainability of our operation or exposing our customers to chemicals, I would never have made the switch. You are getting exposed to more dissolved petroleum in one of the paperboard pints than with the PET....that wax flakes and scrapes off easily, which has always bothered me.
We looked at corn plastic, too, but some batches failed a freeze test, I have serious concerns about using a food product for plastics in the current food economy, and they are not recyclable in any way. They can theoretically be composted, but only in commercial composting environments, and the product is still a waste once used.
I appreciate hearing from you and it always good to know that folks are engaged and thinking about the products they're buying. And worrying about these things that I spend my days muddling over! This, like most consumer decisions, was very convoluted and complicated and my initial instincts about plastic were flipped around once I looked closer at the alternatives. I hope you are at least interested by my decision-making process here and thanks again for your time and for enjoying our creations!
by Kristie on January 7th, 2011
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