muesli cereal breakfast

When coming up with an improved packaging option for our muesli, I was amazed how difficult it was to work out which material is better environmentally

We are a green-inclined group of people at Rude Health, so we’ve been trying to improve and reduce our packaging right from the start. It’s a source of frustration that most of our efforts have ended in failure. I’m hoping that the recent leap in awareness is going to shift the issue and make it possible.

Our first effort was to use compostable flow-wrap bags for our muesli. This was extremely short-lived as the bags didn’t seal properly and the muesli spilled out into the box. Total waste, total fail. With hindsight I also question just how compostable those bags were.

Our second effort was to try the opposite approach and ditch the box, so that the cereals were in a bag only, thereby halving the packaging and keeping it 100% functional. So far so good. But it didn’t take long to realise that without the stability of a box, the bags fell over, looking really shabby on shelf and even shabbier when spilling their contents all over your table. Back to the bag-in-box option.

Read more: 10 sustainable and stylish food & drink packaging innovations

Our greatest success was in sourcing biodegradable spoons and cups for all of our in-store tasting and sampling. We were Vegware’s first customer in 2006 and still buy from them today.

I am amazed at the lack of packaging options and how difficult it is to work out which is better environmentally. In fact, the more we learn the more complicated it gets. Card is great, but doesn’t keep all food fresh for long enough, and recycled card can contain all sorts of non-card bits that don’t get sorted out of the recycling, meaning it isn’t always suitable for food packaging. If compostable plastic gets into the recycling, it spoils it, but consumers often don’t know the difference. Tetra Paks are recyclable, but only where there are special facilities. Glass is recyclable, but it’s a highly energy-intensive process, so re-using makes more sense, but that’s died out with milkmen and bottle deposits (though there are plans for a return).

Read more: What makes a coffee pod environmentally-friendly?

In the short term we are doing our best, but structural change is what we really need, to improve recycling and bottle deposit schemes.

While waiting for a packaging breakthrough, we’ve got rid of the office capsule coffee machine and replaced it with free coffee from our café. A mini environmental and taste win.