After a week of fabulous guest posts, we’ve decided to open up Thursdays for guest writers from now on! This week Emma Healey, one of the team at Abel & Cole for almost 2 years shares their latest packaging news which waves a cheery goodbye to the use of polystyrene and replaces it with … well, I won’t spoil Emma’s fun.
Defected from the ‘Devil wears Prada’ fashion industry to the much more interesting and appetising organic food industry Emma is now knee deep in mud and veg more often than fabrics and buttons. Visiting Abel and Cole’s farmers is definitely the highlight!
At Abel & Cole, we challenge ourselves about everything we do to make sure it has minimal impact on the environment…it’s even known to cause some debates over our lunch time beetroot curry!
Using polystyrene boxes for chilled deliveries has been a real bug-bear…something we’ve been keen to move away from for a while, even though we do reuse these boxes several times.
Finding an alternative has been a major project, and earlier this year, we discovered Woolcool, a fantastic packaging initiative developed by Angela Morris, which evolved from working with National Trust tenant farmers. Winner of the Observer Food Monthly ‘Best Innovation’ Award 2009, it is an entirely eco-friendly insulated packaging, with a ‘back to basics’ principal that is right up our street.
We were excited, so held lots of temperature trials, as well as trying them out with our customers – and on both counts, they got a big thumbs-up. We are now in the process of rolling it out for all deliveries, whilst exhausting all possible use of the existing polystyrene boxes.
The difference is that every element of Woolcool is environmentally friendly, so we are now sleeping well at night! We’ve made some calculations to put this change into perspective, and we found that using Woolcool is saving us from using about 87 40ft trailers worth of polystyrene a year! In contrast…as long as we continue to shear our sheep, there is wool.
The wool we currently use is all from British sheep, helping to raise the value of wool in the UK – so we are supporting British sheep farmers and rural communities. Processed and packaged in the UK, the virgin wool currently used can be recycled in the future and used again – so it’s seriously sustainable. Even when the wool can no longer be used for packaging it’s fully biodegradable and compostable.
How it works is that the sheep’s wool is naturally felted and sealed within a recyclable food grade film to create the insulation, and it is even more effective than polystyrene. By naturally absorbing moisture, the wool fibres keep contents consistently cool and dry for longer, being proven to keep contents chilled below 5°c for at least 24 hours.
The wool sleeves line our regular recycled cardboard delivery boxes, which are used over and over until they must be recycled. We are collecting feedback from our customers about the new chill boxes as we roll them out, with one customer already telling us “I am glad to say they worked well. It is also nice to see a more ethical product than the previous cool boxes.” It means a lot that they are as interested in the eco-credentials as we are.
Woolcool ticks all of the boxes for Abel & Cole: in addition to being an effective insulation and replacing our need for polystyrene, it adds another way we can support British farmers. Now we just can’t wait to see the back of the last polystyrene box!
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