There’s no denying that more and more people are becoming aware of many products causing harm to the environment. Millennials in particular have been the subject of many studies that have revealed the younger generations are more likely to buy products with better sustainable business practices.
In a 2015 Nielsen survey, it was shown that 73% of Millennials (those born 1977 -1995) were willing to pay more for sustainable materials. This was out of 30,000 consumers throughout 60 countries. With sustainability in mind, consumers and business owners are starting to question how to make commercial industries more environmentally friendly.
We love the flower industry but we also would be the first to say that there is a growing issue with the use of unsustainable materials and methods in cut flower design.
In this blog, we will try to break down some of the key issues and the potentially sustainable solutions we as an industry could start working towards.
Plastic is one of the most controversial materials in the game. We have found through our research, it’s also the most challenging material to get a straight answer about.
Most supermarket chains in New Zealand are now ‘banning the bag’ when it comes to single-use soft plastic and there is the ‘Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling’ scheme available in many outlets.
Most plastic flower sleeves are made of either PP (Polypropylene) or BOPP (biaxially-oriented polypropylene). There isn’t a lot of information out there on whether these materials can be put in the soft plastic recycling bins. We have tried contacting Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling scheme numerous times and have also tried via the companies associated with it, but no one seems to want to respond.
On the ‘Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling’ Website (recycling.kiwi.Nz) they state ‘as a rule of thumb, we accept plastic that scrunches up and doesn’t bounce pack’. Flower sleeves don’t do either of these things, but neither do many pasta bags, confectionery wrappers, biscuit wrappers, and a number of other products listed on the website as being ‘soft-plastic recyclable’.
Auckland Council very recently rolled out an app called ‘Binny’ which is meant to answer your questions on what soft plastic can be recycled. ‘Binny’ told us that polypropylene can be recycled, but had no answer for biaxially-oriented polypropylene yet.
Even if plastic flower sleeves do turn out to be recyclable, Asia and Australia have both stopped accepting New Zealand’s soft plastics.
Anything collected via the ‘Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling’ scheme is currently being stored in large shipping containers. Considering the ‘Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling’ Website reported that last year ‘kiwis dropped off over 365 tonnes of soft plastic recycling bags for recycling’ – that’s a lot of plastic being stockpiled!
Recently the ‘Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling’ scheme has collaborated with two companies taking some of the soft plastic load and recycling it into products such as fence posts and ducting, but it’s still only a small amount in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s to hoping, over time, more companies click on and find ways to give single-use plastic a second life as something new.
So, the best answer would be to get rid of plastics altogether, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that! Many flower growers have invested a lot of time and resource into both packaging and machines that sleeve their flowers for them. It’s how they protect their product as it moves logistically around the country and in and out of buckets or boxes. There is a reluctance to waste the investment made into plastic packaging when there is no guarantee that the industry will support its initiatives. Will a retailer still pay a good price for a slightly bruised product because it was picked, transported, and sold un-sleeved?
Many products are so hardy that they could bypass being sleeved altogether such as certain foliage varieties. But for the more delicate blooms a strong alternative would need to be found before any action is taken. Particularly for growers who send their flowers across the country.
We are currently researching alternatives for plastic such as paper wrap, paper made from stone, biodegradable plastic, etc. It’s an ongoing project, and while it may not be a short-term outcome, we hope that in the long term we are on the path to reducing plastic in the industry altogether.
The floral foam has been used for years in the flower industry as a base structure that doubles as a water source.
Useful? Yes. Time-saving? Yes. Good for the environment? Heck no!
Floristry foam is made of phenol-formaldehyde and is not biodegradable. On top of that it takes hundreds of years to break down and is often only single use. Yikes.
Many florists are choosing to remove the material from their flower designs, and are finding alternative options such as chicken wire and sphagnum moss. Plastic tubes are also a popular option as they can be continuously re-used.
It can be a bit of a case of ‘easier said than done, particularly for florists who have larger installations to complete, under strict budgets. Floral foam saves time and is a cheap option – which saves money for the consumer too!
The brand Oasis has recently brought out a new variety of foam with enhanced biodegradability.
Great! But the only issue is, our landfills don’t provide the right environmental conditions to give the foam the ability to biodegrade. We hope that the more eco-conscious our society becomes; the more funding and research will be given to ensuring our landfill and recycling centers are allowing our biodegradable products to do just that.
At the end of the day, this proves the flower industry is beginning to take a step in the right direction towards better sustainable practices.
And everything else…
There are so many other ways our industry as a whole is starting to look towards are more eco-friendly future.
Here are a few of them:
-The return of the dried flower trend has helped reduce wastage in many floral studios. Unsold products at a florist can now be given a second life as dried creations.
-Buying local means less air miles, therefore reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. It also results in less harmful sprays from the fumigation process imported flowers have to go through.
-A number of local growers are also looking at ways to reduce the number of chemicals that get sprayed on their blooms. One of these methods involves planting wildflowers in their nurseries to attract good bugs that eat harmful insects.