How sustainable is our packaging?
Sustainability in packaging (for our products) and packing (for shipping and receiving) is a crucial and complicated question and we are providing on this page some information about what we are doing now and where we are going.
1. Products Packaging
The choices we make are driven by three criteria: quality, sustainability and design.
- Quality because our products need to be in a packaging that maintains their integrity or quality with for instance a sufficient shelf life - luckily glass is perfect for essential oils -, that is safe but also practical to use - e.g. we need dropper inserts for the oils - and lastly conforming to the regulations in our industry - e.g. we need labels that don't smear when water or oil is poured over them -.
- Sustainability: when the quality criteria are met, we can then focus on the most sustainable packaging that will meet these quality criteria. This is a harder question than it looks as sustainability involves looking at the life cycle of a packaging component, from its raw materials to its production to it shipping to its use and lifespan and recyclability. A good illustration of that that we like to use is the cup of coffee: should we chose single use compostable cups or a plastic or metal reusable cup? And this question needs to be asked for each packaging component we select.
- Design : because we still want our products to be attractive and functional. So the key is to achieve the look we want while meeting our quality and sustainability standards.
The starting point is to create an inventory of all our products packaging. When embarking on this journey, it is important to keep a detailed list of what we are using today and be transparent about it. We have rated each component with a simple letter from A to D and the objective is to ultimately move everything to A. This is a simple indicator but effective to keep track of what we have achieved and it is a motivator to keep improving over time.
A Blue Glass bottles: fully recyclable in the green glass bins
A White Glass bottle: fully recyclable in the white glass bins.
C Caps for 5ML bottles: HDPE plastic (see table below highlighting the different types of plastics and their sustainability 'grades')
C Caps for 12ML, 50ML, 100ML bottles: PP plastic
C Tamper evident rings on all caps: HDPE
C Droppers for 5ML, 12ML, 100ML bottles: LDPE
C Sprayers for 20ML, 100ML bottles : PS for the clear cap, NBR (nitrile rubber) for the actuator and PV for the feeding pipe
B Product Labels: paper coated with ink and foil finish in some instances. The foil is being phased out.
B Product boxes: paper coated with ink and foil finish. The foil finish will be phased out over time.
A Gift set box: cardboard
B Diffuser cover: recycled bamboo fibers and corn starch
D Diffuser: the material used for the base is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PP for the water tank. There are also of course small electric components to run the diffuser. The label is made of paper with a PP coating. The plugs casing is made of PCX. No PVC is used.
A Diffuser box: Our old box was using in the inside a foam made of Expanded Polyethylene (EPE - an extrusion of HDPE pellets) to cushion and protect the diffuser. This is being phased out since September 2021 with a completely redesigned paper/cardboard box (inside and outside)
Case study: plastic caps, a work in progress...
A strong focus has been from the beginning on our plastic caps. We have tried for instance aluminium caps (without plastic liners) or glass droppers with a rubber top, but most essential oils would simply leak through them. We took a look also at wood/bamboo covers which look nice and eco-friendly on the outside, but these are lined with plastic underneath that is usually glued to it; and we feel they are worse because the plastic in most cases is hard to separate from the wood/bamboo cap, making them impossible to recycle.
So unless we find a suitable alternative to plastic, we are concentrating our efforts at present on 1) finding HDPE-only caps and components, as HDPE is the most friendly type of plastic that is also adapted to our type of products. 2) finding a source of caps made from recycled plastic 3) creating a scheme for return and re-use of empty bottles and caps to us. A number of online customers are doing it already and our effort in the coming months will be to support them by providing € incentives and work with select retailers who are willing to collect for us. The goal is to then repurpose these in our production cycle. So look out for these initiatives and please contact us if you do want to return any bottles or caps.
2. Packing (including receiving and shipping)
This is an area where it is somewhat easier to be highly sustainable. Let's look at the three areas: a) our packing materials for the orders we ship out to our customers b) our shipping partners and how sustainably they carry the goods c) our receiving, that is the packing materials and products we get from our suppliers and how we can influence and help change practices.
Packing our orders for shipping:
We have been working hard to minimise our use of packaging in general and we are proud to say we now use only recyclable material (cardboard and paper)
A Packing Boxes: all cardboard and many boxes are custom made to fit exactly our standard products and orders, minimising the need for fillers inside the boxes and minimising the space needed to carry them.
A Packing Tape: we have been using all paper tapes since the beginning in 2018.
A Packing slips: plastic free - all paper pouches/slips since September 2021.
A Paper for invoices and other packing documents : we use only recycled paper
A Packing Void Fillers: wood wool and paper cardboard. We use as much as possible paper/cardboard from our incoming supplies or that we can salvage from other companies in our industrial building.
B Shipping Labels: direct thermal paper. They seem to be highly recyclable but we are investigating if we can find better solutions.
Although they are not the cheapest on our market, we have decided to partner with two shipping companies that we feel are best in class when it comes to responsible logistics: DHL and DPD. To make that decision, we have been looking at their sustainable practices and goals and in particular their path to carbon neutrality by growing for instance their fleets of electric vehicles. We have created a link for each of these carriers to their sustainable platforms.
DHL (we use them for international shipping)
DPD (we use them for domestic and European shipping)
Our goal is to influence and support how our partners and suppliers physically ship to us. We are looking mostly at the packaging that is coming in: is it all recyclable or is there some single use plastic? What type of boxes, tape and packing slips are used? what type of void fillers? what type of containers are used for the oils? can we repurpose some of these? how do they ship?
This assessment has been useful in two ways:
we have learned new solutions for our own packing by studying what the best in class are doing.
we keep track of who could and should improve and we are able to share solutions that we or others have adopted in their packaging and packing practices.
We want ultimately to work only with partners that share our goals to minimise waste and improve the use of recyclable materials.
As highlighted before, we take sustainability in packing and packaging as a journey: new challenges are always coming up and new solutions as well, so we will keep our eyes open and keep improving over time.