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October 15, 2010

Natural Products Expo: Packaging.

Coming from my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, I get to see many of the new products that are released at the Natural Product Expo East in Boston, where I’m reporting from—from new packaging and products to new ideas in the industry of “natural” and organic products.

The most interesting factor that I’m paying attention to is packaging. It’s getting more and more common to see products that are organic, gluten free, vegan…but shouldn’t the packaging of this “natural” food be equally mindful?

When I go around and ask, there is no good way of saying that the primary packaging material is plastic. I have heard every excuse from there is no other alternative material, it is too expensive to switch. If you can afford to have a booth at a trade show, then perhaps you can manage to figure out how to not use plastic—or at least keep the amount you’re forcing those who want to purchase your product to use and be responsible for. I’d rather hear, simply, how you would like to not use it, and someday will make the transition. That would be the best, most honest answer. I’ve heard it zero times.

Having a certified organic, gluten free, dairy free, Vegan GMO free product is great! Except it almost seems like too much of a gimme…and the value of those words are being undermined. I want to see more of the way you dispose of the whole product. An example would be Sun Cups. The Sun Cups are wrapped in a compostable material, so the whole shebang is working together. An organic product wrapped in a natural material. Yay! You get it. Not to mention, they are the only product I’ve found so far that uses a compostable package. That is really strange to me.

For all you companies who say there is no such thing, Innovia films is a producer of compostable packaging.

I have found one company, Paldo, which uses Styrofoam: bummer. The stuff should be illegal—and is, in some municipalities. Even the booths themselves are certain to be un-eco-friendly. Talking to David McBride, he reassures me that his company, Apex, is helping companies set up booths using recycled material, and they are above the three percent chance of being used again (unlike this plastic cup I am drinking out because that is all the Expo seems to provide—still, my bad, should have brought my own container).

All I can say is there is no hope for eco-responsible, “good” packaging.  I hope to see a little more effort and research done for Expo West, where Waylon, our editor, will join me and two other writers.

Alex Hanifin is a Boulder local. She climbs rocks to get off the ground. She bakes to enjoy herself. And her work comes along with it all.

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