Organic farmers and nationwide veg box scheme, Riverford, have ditched plastic nets used to pack their onions, citrus fruits and Brussels sprouts in favour of a compostable alternative made from beech tree pulp.
The nets are made by biogenic packaging company VPZ Verpackungszentrum, 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 provide 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. Feedback from their franchise network and customers has so far been positive.
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, then it’s pack 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.
Riverford are currently reviewing all existing packaging, making sure it reflects their ethics and are always looking at ways to improve, ensuring they maintain their sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly status.