According to a 2013 study by PCI Films Consulting, 17 billion plastic pouches ended up in landfills throughout the U.S. that year and production is expected to reach 24 billion plastic pouches by 2018 — but that staggering statistic isn’t one that we have to accept. As a company deeply rooted in the food industry, Alter Eco has seen the continual evolution of food packaging, and plastic pouches have become one of the newest, convenient and most sought-after formats on grocery store shelves. Recently, plastic pouch use has become incredibly widespread, showing up in virtually every aisle of the grocery store from beverages to cereal, crackers and snacks, candy, baby food and supplements. The problem? Few of these pouches are recyclable and none are made with non-GMO compostable materials, and it’s creating a silent environmental issue that we at Alter Eco refuse to accept.
Alter Eco has always focused on full-circle sustainability and we ensure our full portfolio of chocolate bars and truffles, Royal heirloom quinoa, rice and unrefined sugar are all Fair Trade Certified, Carbon Neutral Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. As the first company to seek Fair Trade Certification for our chocolates 15 years ago, we have been striving toward sustainability since we were founded in 1998. Our recent introduction of Gone4Good™, the first-ever laminated, plant-based pouch made with compostable materials, is something we at Alter Eco are extremely proud of. Gone4Good™ replaced our previous packaging for our organic Royal heirloom quinoa products (Rainbow, Pearl, Red and Black). This patent-pending stand-up quinoa pouch made with compostable materials is designed to disappear within three to six months based on our observations. Most importantly, the pouch is an initial step to shining light on an increasing problem and our dedication to sparking the change we want to see in the world, while showing consumers there is a convenient option and a better way than plastic.
Why sustainable packaging?
Around 2010, we decided we needed to put our money where our mouth is and reduce the amount of plastic our company was producing. As a company focused on sustainability, we feel taking action is the best form of demonstrating a company’s mission: You can shout your “sustainability” with as much marketing efforts as possible, but without any action, consumers will not take notice. For us sustainability doesn’t mean one issue — we encompass sustainability through four key pillars: sourcing using Fair Trade principles, producing only organic and non-GMO foods, creating minimal waste by working toward 100 percent compostable packaging, and offsetting carbon emissions. As a Fair Trade Certified and Carbon Neutral Certified brand, the next logical step was our packaging.
In 2013, we introduced our silky smooth truffles enclosed in wrappers made with compostable materials, and three years later our line of Heirloom quinoa was released in a pouch made with compostable materials. This goal wasn’t something born out of a brainstorming session, but an inherent need that Alter Eco as a brand needed to help decrease the amount of plastic packaging produced annually. When we decided to move forward with our Gone4Good™ quinoa pouches made with compostable materials, one of our biggest challenges was finding the right converter and supplier partners who were aligned with our vision, and who were willing to take risks. We needed to make sure we ended up with a package that printed and looked as good as our current pouch, performed as well in distribution and on shelf, and of course protected the product. We had a goal of making sure all inputs were certified compostable, as well as the materials themselves being non-GMO and from sustainably managed forests. Years of research, design and testing went into this solution, sponsored and supported by a group of companies dedicated to environmental responsibility, OSC2 — One Step Closer to Organic Sustainable Community. With the support of OSC2, we were able to reach our gold standard goal.
Our Gone4Good™ pouch is made from birch and eucalyptus wood pulp and non-GMO corn, printed with non-toxic ink, and is the first-ever laminated, plant-based pouch made out of compostable material available nationwide. Each Gone4Good™ pouch is created with two layers held together with a compostable adhesive, with each layer and individual components being certified compostable and have passed tests for composability. Gone4Good™ pouches made with compostable materials will disappear within three to six months, under ideal (municipal) conditions, according to our observations. Our pouches are currently patent-pending, and ASTM testing and certification is in progress.
Since the launch of the Gone4Good™ quinoa pouches our customers have become passionate about supporting a shift in this reality toward a more sustainable future. Most consumers do not realize plastic packaging makes up one-sixth of the waste in U.S. landfills and outnumbers sea life in our ocean 6:1. Our role as a sustainability-focused company is to inspire consumers to educate themselves and demand the change they want to see in the world. If a small, passion-driven company such as Alter Eco can do it, we believe anyone can. If we fail to change our harmful ways on this earth, we put generations to come at risk, and it’s our job as food companies to not only change the way in which we produce food and packaging, but to inspire people to form better purchasing habits. And our consumers have been thrilled — they see this as a necessary change. And for the less-environmentally inclined consumer, we feel we have introduced a platform for the start of a very important conversation.
Although the release of Gone4Good™ quinoa packaging and truffle wrappers are a step in the right direction, we still feel the food industry as a whole has a long way to go. As a company we are working towards developing a long-lasting, sustainable packaging solution to globally transform the food industry and are currently working towards a line of 100 percent compostable packaging. We’re seeking solutions that get manufacturers and consumers talking about trash to find the best possible options for a better world.