Reducing Our Packaging Waste is a Team Effort

March 30, 2021

The staff at Stone Bank Farm is an environmentally conscious bunch. Vegetables and herbs are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and livestock are raised using regenerative farming practices that focus on soil health.  The kitchen staff, too, is all about creating dishes using seasonal fare from local sources — and on those days when we have more of something than the market can sell, our chefs are happy to work their culinary magic so that nothing goes to waste.

In the market, SBF manager, Michelle, partners with other farms and food artisans whose values reflect our own —- and when it comes to making decisions around things like event logistics, product displays and food packaging, Michelle is intentional about choosing the most sustainable options possible, which is what we know our customers want too.

Food packaging is one of those areas that require a team effort on the part of the producer, retailer and consumer in order to have the biggest environmental impact. SBF has done its research, and while our packaging options aren’t perfect, we’re always striving to provide the most eco-friendly packaging possible while still maintaining the quality of the product. 

While our ultimate goal is to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics and packaging (i.e. packaging that is used only once before it is thrown away or recycled), we are not there yet. In the meantime, customer help is needed so that we can reduce the amount of our packaging waste that ends up in a landfill or worse. 

Below is a guide on how you can best help us to handle our packaging waste in an eco-friendly way: 

Our Plastic Packaging is Reusable and Recyclable

SBF packages our soups, microgreens, egg and chicken salad, and other prepared foods in containers that are, both, reusable and recyclable. In our corner of Wisconsin, only plastics with a #1, 2 or 5 on the bottom of the container are recyclable. No other plastics are recyclable since there is currently not a market for them. To recycle, make sure containers are empty of their contents and clean, otherwise, they will be thrown away at the recycling center. Too many “contaminants” in a load (i.e. too many containers that are unclean or the wrong plastic type), means that the entire load will end up in the landfill.

For more information on how to recycle right in Waukesha County, click here.

Compostable Packaging (with a Caveat)

Most compostable containers are designed for commercial/industrial composters where items are exposed to extremely high temperatures in order to break down. In our area, commercial composting isn’t an option, although that may change at some point. The compostable containers that we use in the market to package our prepared foods are designed for industrial composters (as all/most compostable containers are). Without access to an industrial composting facility, these containers must be thrown in the trash —- sorry, but no part of the container is recyclable. We’ve chosen compostable containers since they are significantly more eco-friendly on the front (manufacturing) end versus plastics that are made with fossil fuels, require additional energy to be recycled and can only be recycled a finite number of times before they ultimately end up in a landfill. 

Note: Plastics can take 450 years to break down, and never fully decompose; meaning that all plastic that has ever been produced has ended up in the environment and is still present in one form or another, either as micro-plastics and/or as the chemicals used to make them. 

Compostable Produce Bags

The compostable produce bags that we use in the market are designed for home composters since they are made from corn, however, for those who don’t have a compost bin or pile, these bags must be thrown in the trash after use. While we realize this isn’t ideal, we’ve chosen these bags since they are less toxic to produce than plastic, and when they do break down, they are not harmful to the environment. 

Plastic Bags are Recyclable —– but don’t put in your recycling bin!

Plastic bags can be recycled with minimal effort by placing your clean, dry bags in designated barrels at certain retail stores such as Pick ‘N Save, Target, or Kohls. 

For more information on how to recycle plastic bags in Waukesha County, click here.

Reusable Bags

Reusable shopping and produce bags like the ones that we offer for sale in the market are an eco-friendly option since they reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment. 

 Plastic Plant Pots, Containers and Trays are NOT Recyclable

With the annual SBF Spring Plant Sale coming up on May 5th – 9th, it bears mentioning that plastic plant pots, containers and trays are not accepted in our curbside recycling bins .  These items are contaminated with dirt and debris even when rinsed, and as much as it hurts our pro-recycling sensibilities, they must be tossed in the trash or taken to a local landscaping or garden center that accepts them. 

For more information about plastic garden containers, click here.

Food packaging is a complex issue —- and we’re still learning —- but we appreciate the help of our customers as we try to do right by our planet. Thanks!

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