I started searching for our ice cream packaging yesterday, what I thought would be a pretty straight forward search for pretty images led me to 10 hours of background research reading! I found the ‘look’ I want for our packages right away: simple, clean, with a little down home flair, just like our ice cream. What do you think?
Since we are striving for ecologically sound farming, we want our packaging to reflect those high standards too. This is where it got complicated!
We plan to use glass for our milk caramel sauce, but am concerned about using it with the ice cream as it is more brittle when frozen, so I started looking at plastic options.
Compostable vs Recycleable vs Biodegradable
I initially thought simply: petroleum bad, compostable good. But when I dug into it, like most things there are tradeoffs: compostable & biodegradeable tie into the throw-away mentality of using lots of energy and resources to only be used once. However recycling rates are terribly low (only ~30%), but if people choose to recycle there is less energy used and keeps from having new raw materials (which in the case of corn-based plastic (PLA) are another competing use of food acres), and unfortunately the compostable containers can’t currently be recycled (this can changed with increased demand). Compostable also has the challenge of often not breaking down in backyard compost or in the landfill if it ends up there, so it is only marginally better in our current system because few cities offer composting options. However, being sourced from renewable sources and having the potential to breakdown makes compostable containers appealing.
When considering plastics, I wanted to make sure we minimized our contribution to the health burden of endocrine disrupting compounds, as most plastics are problematic, particularly from BPA or phthalates. If you haven’t heard of them, they are what make many plastics pliable and are found in everything from cosmetics, to paints, to our food. For plastics, the compostable containers using PLA liners seem to be the winners here as they have no known direct health impacts.
New to me was that dairy products were continually higher in phthalates than most other foods, even with phthalate-free packaging. This is particularly important for ice cream because the fats attract the chemicals even more. Researchers looked at the full dairy supply chain and found that plastics used throughout milking and processing contributed, particularly the transfer tubing. To reduce the amounts in our milk, we already are buying recycled wall coatings, and now will be finding ways to reduce the contact of the milk with all plastics, and those required will be phthalate-free (such as these milk hoses).
What should we use?
What would you like to see in packaging? Have you seen other options?