Our oceans are filling with garbage. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans. 90% of the plastic pollution in the ocean comes from 10 rivers, and the Yangetze River in China alone contributes 55%. While this is a sad reflection on the lack on infrastructure for proper waste disposal in the developing world, we too contribute to the problem. For years, we have been shipping our plastic garbage to Asia and some of it doesn’t end up where we think it does.
There are a lot of potential solutions to this problem, from the inspiring efforts like The Ocean Cleanup , to better recycling programs and technology, to simply reducing the amount of plastic garbage in the first place.
This is something that keeps me up at night. It’s not lost on me that while we are a mission-based business focused on solving environmental and population health issues, we are also contributing to the ocean plastics problem. Namely, we have been using plastic trays with heart-shaped cubes for the sauce packaging in our fish kits.
We have been testing compostable plastics for nearly a year to try and change the material of our sauce trays. Some were too brittle and couldn’t be shaped. Some would crack with temperature changes. Some worked, but we couldn’t find a film that would adhere to it to cover the sauce. A few looked promising, but didn’t perform well on the production equipment. And some were perfect, but would cost more than the fish in our products. In partnership with EcNow Tech, we finally found a winner!
We’re really excited to announce that our new sustainable seafood kit product line rolling out in March 2019 will feature compostable plant-based plastics. These new materials are made from a BPI certified polylactic acid or PLA. When you see a crystal clear sauce tray like this in your box, you’ll know you have the new compostable product in your hands! Later this summer, our microwavable bowls will feature the same compostable material too. Even more exciting, several much larger companies will be switching to these new materials because we’ve proven that they can work, multiplying our impact!
PLA plastics are certainly an improvement over petroleum-based plastics, but there’s still a catch-22. It takes space and water (and likely fertilizer and pesticide) to grow plants to convert to packaging, and those resources could be used to feed people instead. While the material is compostable, it doesn't degrade as well in a marine environment (should it end up there) as it does on land where the right bacteria are present or, most efficiently, in a commercial composter. So, if you don’t dispose of your compostable plastic properly, it could still become a problem in the ocean. However, there are some exciting marine biodegradable materials in development, like Mango Materials which is made from bacteria in a methane combustion process, which are even more planet friendly.We can't wait until they are viable for our applications.
We are on a sustainability journey. Every year we strive to be better. And someday, with your help, we will be big enough to take on the biggest challenges and start really making change. Your support matters and your choices make a difference.