Our Commitment To The Environment

Butterfly on a yellow plant

The issues and challenges around the environment and global warming aren’t going anywhere and there’s still much to be done in addressing the damage we’ve collectively caused our planet.

According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, “each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean — which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050”.  If we really absorb the enormity of that staggering figure, it could leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what can be done and with the different  terms and phrases used, it can feel a little like you’re having to learn a whole new language. 

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We’re a small business, and committed to doing all we can to lessen our impact on the environment, and so this involves looking at our packaging etc on an ongoing basis. So, a while ago, I looked into the differences between some popular packaging terms, to enable us to make informed decisions for the business, and along the way I realised that, it’s just not that clear cut, or simple, so I’ll give you a snapshot of what I found. One thing we know to be really important to us as a business, is that what we do, needs to be meaningful, and not simply done for us to tick a box. Rightly or wrongly, if the majority of the population don’t compost, and there’s no real commercial compost solution in the UK, as Choc Affair, we are not going to chose to use and advertise our lolly bags as being compostable – because what is the purpose behind that, if it isn’t a true and viable option? So, let’s have a quick look at what I learnt during this journey. 

These terms both have clear meanings – Biodegradable is defined as “a material that will break down or decompose through microbial action into basic elements found in nature”. In essence, they must be “eaten” by microbes, such as those found in soil, with decomposition occurring within a certain timeframe.

Compostable refers to “a material that will break down quickly in a typical composting operation into nutrient-rich, soil-conditioning mixture”. Surely, when a plastic is labelled compostable or biodegradable, it should represent how the end user (that’s you and me) will dispose of, or recycle the product?  I’m sadly, one of the 97% of the population who don’t compost. According to the survey of 3015 households:

Do you have a compost heap or compost bin in your garden?
• Yes: 3%
• No: 97%

Asked why their household doesn’t compost food waste, the top answers were:
• I don’t have a garden 15%
• Lack of time 32%
• Lack of gardening skill 20%
• Lack of motivation 28% notes that the biggest barriers to domestic composting are time and motivation, a far cry from the days when virtually every garden in the country grew its own food. “The major difference is that we’re now in an age of convenience and plenty,” said Mark Hall, “there’s little motivation in growing your own food when it’s literally a click of a mouse away.”

Thea article goes on to say: found that people still don’t compost their waste even if it’s picked up from their front door every week.

If your council takes away food and garden waste for compost, do you take part in the scheme?
• Yes: 10%
• No: 90%

We may think that if it says its biodegradable it’s ok, as even if placed in landfill or if it finds it’s way to the ocean, it will break down eventually; however, this is a bit of a contradiction in terms, and I’ll share with you the reasons why – Biodegradable organic materials require air, water, light, or a combination of these elements to enable the microorganisms to do their job. Remove any (or all) of these elements, and biodegradation can be slowed dramatically.

A landfill site is essentially volumes of waste piled on top of each other, thereby blocking the light and oxygen to all but the top layers. With a protective liner in place at the base of the landfill (used to prevent toxins leaking into the soil), everything is essentially locked into the site, therefore not enabling nature to do it’s thing. Even easily degradable items, such as banana peels and paper, are known to survive for years in landfills with minimal degradation. Degradation of bio plastics in the Ocean is also difficult, as you can see by the image below from the Marine Litter Report.

So, in light of all this, you may be wondering what our stance at Choc Affair is regarding our packaging and impact on the environment? We recognise we aren’t where we need to be or want to be yet,  and that there’s more we need to continue to do.  We’re not one of those super manufacturers who have solar panels, rain water harvested systems, electric cars etc, we are a small company, who are doing what they can to ensure we are playing our part to make a contribution to the ever growing challenge our environment faces, and we’ll continue to do so, whilst exploring what else we can be doing and additional changes we need to make.

Cocoa pods under trees

  • All our chocolate comes from a sustainable source, and we contribute an additional 5% financial premium towards reforestation and other projects in Colombia where our cocoa is grown
  • We’ve chosen a supplier who process the chocolate in country – this means instead of the cocoa beans being exported, they are made into the chocolate we use, in Colombia, so providing much needed economic and employment for the local population.
  • All our packaging is purchased from suppliers here in the UK – So, whilst the foil we use is mined and initially  processed in Europe, the embossing and finishing is carried out by our supplier, here in the UK and is recyclable in your home recycling. You can learn more about how aluminiun foil is made here 
  • The paper stocks we use for our wrappers are all from a sustainable source, and recyclable, in your home recycling.
  • Our lolly bags, are not currently recyclable or compostable – We made the decision, rightly or wrongly, not to use an option classified as  compostable, because we don’t believe it to be a viable alternative, as less than 3% of the population actually do compost at home, and our waste disposal in the UK is not yet effective at composting.
  • Our chocolate  buttons packaging is made from paper and is recyclable in your home recycling.

Sustainable chocolate making

If you have a business and you want to make some changes to the way you impact the environment, you can read our top ten ways to reduce your environmental impact here.

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About Linda

Linda is the founder of Choc Affair, with a passion for creating wonderfully delicious chocolates, that are ethically made.