We can see a world without thoughtless waste, and we’re taking one micro-step at a time to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment.
If you’re as keen on green as we are - you are in the right place!
Diving into the data on plastic pollution, the unsettling realities of recycling and the greenwashing galore in everyday marketing can be a real buzzkill, we know, but we’ll risk our reputation as the life-of-the-party if it means we can help someone to understand why this mission is important to us.
We hope this information helps to clarify:
- Why we’ve chosen the packaging we have
- The pros and cons of our current packaging
- Our solution to the single-use dilemma
Nothing makes us happier than making our microgreens available to you in as many convenient places as possible.
Single-use packaging is an important tool for our business to get our microgreens out into the world. An airtight container plays an important role in keeping them fresh for as long as possible and making sure they are safe for you to consume.
Options are limited in the airtight container department, but ultimately we settled on a compostable plastic container.
Read on for more information...
The short answer? They don't break down. Ever. Instead, these plastics live forever in the form of tiny microplastics that continue to pollute our environment.
The longer answer? When looking at the impact of single-use plastic, food packaging is by far the worst offender. In a 2016 study, researchers found that food packaging accounts for 42 percent of single-use plastics globally.
Often we look to recycling as the answer, but the truth is that only about 9% of all the plastic created globally since 1950 has been recycled - the rest has either been incinerated (12%), or has accumulated in landfills and the natural environment (79%).
In Canada specifically, less than 10% of plastic used gets recycled.
We could really go on (and on) about the environmental downsides of petroleum-based plastics, but we’ll leave it there for now. Check out OurWorldInData.org and search for “Plastic Pollution” (Ritchie & Roser, 2018) for a trove of resources.
Navigating the ins and outs of sustainable packaging is riddled with inconsistencies. Specifically, when looking at bio-based plastics, as there is currently no regulatory framework to work from in Canada. In the end, we chose the Polylactic acid (PLA) products made by World Centric and distributed by Earth Distributors, a local Calgary company.
Three key reasons we chose World Centric PLA is because they:
- Followed the guidelines and definition of "compostable" outlined by the Competition Bureau of Canada in their Environmental Claims: A Guide for Industry and Advertisers
- Meet standards of more than one international organization
- Transparently indicated all third-party certifications
Quick compostable plastic pros and cons for you:
Compostable plastic isn't perfect.
Though it is a step-up from petroleum-based plastics, in the end, it is still a single-use product. It follows the linear take-make-waste model outlined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Further, as we lack the waste-management facilities to properly compost these materials, they commonly end up in our landfills and can break down at a significantly slower rate, if at all.
At Micro YYC, we are hopeful that composting infrastructure will continue to evolve and improve to catch up to the innovations in packaging, but these things take time.
Luckily there are private composting companies in Calgary that can accept these materials.
More on that below...
We were as shocked as you are to find out that the City of Calgary does not accept PLA plastic in their green cart program.
The direct answer from the City of Calgary’s website: “The City of Calgary tested a variety of compostable coffee pods, compostable containers, and compostable cutlery. These items did not break down at the composting facility, leaving compostable plastic pieces behind. This contamination increases costs and impacts the quality of the finished compost. As a result, bio-based and “compostable” plastics should be put in the garbage.”
In short - our city’s composting process is not hot or long enough to create the conditions to break down compostable plastic packaging.
And unfortunately - here comes the part where we burst your optimistic recycling bubble (sorry!) - that #7 triangle on the bottom of the package does not make it recyclable. (See why in our “why compostable” answer above).
YES! Remove the label and bring your used containers back to the participating community partners below to be composted through Micro YYC’s Takeback Program. Returned containers will either be sent for composting through our partners’ private waste collection services or returned to Micro YYC and sent to bluplanet recycling for composting.
- YYC Growers
- Blush Lane Stores (all 3 locations)
- The Tomato Man (Calgary Farmers’ Market vendor)
- Gull Valley Greenhouses (Calgary Farmers’ Market vendor)
- …stay tuned as we add more partners!
We have chosen compostable plastic as an alternative to petroleum-based plastic, and see it as a step in the right direction. But, we want to work towards creating a circular economy for our packaging. This means choosing containers that will be used and used again, instead of being thrown out.
To achieve this goal, we've developed our Zero Waste Initiative to take matters into our own hands and establish a better way to deliver our fresh, local greens in the most sustainable way we can. We are changing the game – one micro-step at a time.
Tip #1 - Bring your reusable cup, container, utensils & napkin on the go:
Although this may seem like a tedious practice, by carrying around your reusables you can save the landfill from accumulating unnecessary plastics waste. You don’t need the fancy reusables kits either (unless of course, you like compact versions of things). Anyone can easily pack a fork, spoon, knife, cup, container & cloth napkin from home, with a couple of minutes of planning. We all inevitably get hungry on the go, having these items in your bag can reduce waste and some eco guilt.
Tip #2 - Eat the food you bought
Food waste is a tragedy that has been normalized. It takes time, energy, water, land, and financial investment to grow food. As a society, we need to start valuing food more by eating, freezing, preserving, or sharing it with others if we aren’t able to consume it before it goes bad. Search for local community fridges to share fresh perishable foods, donate non-perishables items to the local food bank or share your bounty with neighbours.
- Food scraps can also be added to a freezer bag and used to make stock
- Preserves can be made for the fridge to skip the work of getting the canning equipment out.
Tip #3 - Compost even when it isn’t convenient
Composting can be inconvenient, thankfully we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we used to be because in Calgary we now have access to the municipal green cart composting service. It’s easy to justify throwing organic matter in the garbage when we are tired, but when we add organic matter to the landfill it turns into gunk called leachate that emits nitrogen gas into our atmosphere - a gas that is way worse than the CO2 that comes out of our homes or cars. To find out how to properly dispose of organic food, garden (or other home) waste, doing a simple internet search should point you in the direction of your municipality's green cart rules.
Tip #4 - Make Zero Waste a part of the conversation
Zero Waste living is a choice that requires some discipline, consistency, and commitment. By talking about our newfound passion for reducing waste with our friends, family, coworkers, and community we can make our personal success inevitable. The more you share, the more you inspire and maybe that’s just as important as reducing your own footprint. If your friends, family, or coworkers do feel inspired by your actions, maybe they would like to take up a plastic-free challenge.
Tip #5 - Set simple reminders on your phone
Choosing to be a zero-waste pioneer is an undertaking worth committing to. Set yourself up for success by scheduling encouraging reminders on your phone. A simple daily morning reminder of ‘bring your reusables’ can make the zero-waste practices a lifelong habit. We would love to hear how you remind yourself to stay in alignment with your zero-waste goals, share with us @microyyc on Instagram or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If zero-waste interests you and you’re interested in reducing your environmental footprint beyond the lens of food, here are some local low footprint refilleries that specialize in personal and home care products:
Written in collaboration with Plastic-Free YYC.
Find more resources at plasticfreeyyc.com.