Meal prep kits have exploded during the pandemic, all individually wrapped in plastic. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says founders of B.C.-based meal kit company Fresh Prep.
The company has spent two and a half years developing a zero waste system for their meal kits, launching in March.
“We did it because we knew we could,” said co-founder Dhruv Sood.
Instead of using soft plastic pouches for every sprig of thyme and every tablespoon of soy sauce, the new tray system uses reusable, individually sealing cups, that fit tidily in a tray that also seals. Their in-house engineers went through several prototypes before settling on this stystem, that has a patent pending.
The trick was to make something that could be differently configured for each of the 500-plus recipies, sanitized and reused, and fulfilled in their production line.
“The main goal was to reduce green house gas emissions, but it also had to be easy for the customer, and beneficial for the business,” said Sood.
They were developing the zero-waste anyway, but the pandemic has highlighted the need – Canadians throw away three million tons of plastic waste each year. Sood says sales have almost doubled over this time last year, accelerated by restaurant closures and the appeal of no-contact food delivery.
“When we started out we used as much paper as we could, but it got wet. And then we tried putting everything in mason jars, but the orders were like 35 pounds. So we settled on recycling everything, but it still never sit right with us. So, we’re really happy to be launching this zero waste,” Sood said.
Fresh Prep already has reusable insulated bags that customers are used to sending back with delivery drivers, and the company encourages people to send back the soft plastic packaging to be recycled. Sood doesn’t expect any major challenges with getting the trays returned so there’s no deposit.
Non-local meal prep companies aren’t as well positioned to use returnable items. Many, like Hello Fresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food send their food boxes through the mail, with packaging that’s mostly recycleable, and mostly single-use.
Canada is moving towards a ban on single-use plastics as part of its goal to eliminate plastic waste by 2030. Right now the federal government is consulting with the public to develop a ban on single use plastics, to be released by the end of this year.
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