Sometimes in life we make U-turns, and whilst it may seem that these U-turns are against our values, in the end, because we live in an imperfect world, these choices are ultimately more aligned than we think. In another 2 years I may well have pivoted elsewhere, we must all be vigilant about reviewing the choices we make over time to make sure they still stack up.
Since I launched The Very Good Bra in 2018, I've been adamant that everything in the bra and it's packaging has to be 100% compostable, or recyclable in the case of tissue paper. However, as we head towards our second birthday, my views on this have had to adapt to reflect the world in which we live.
To date, at great cost, I've sourced cornstarch compostable poly bags initially from France, via Israel, and more recently from NZ, to send to my factory to pack each garment in before shipping to me in Sydney.
Whilst this makes me feel super about not producing any more plastic, when it comes to the time I mail the orders out, and particularly the bulk mail outs of pre-sale orders, I'm confronted by the fact that as an inner-city apartment dweller, I actually don't have a compost bin and I never will have whilst I live here. I've done the research into community composts, but really this is people's garden compost and whilst they're happy for someone to drop off a bunch of egg shells or spinach roots, I'm embarrassed to ask if they've got space for 250 corn-starch bags!
I gleefully mail the orders out in 100% compostable corn starch mailers and tick my sustainability box, but if I don't have a compost, and there are no large community compost facilities, what makes me think you are in a different situation?
A recent session at the brilliant Legacy Summit run by The Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) finally disabused me of the notion that buying expensive compostable packaging was the cleanest solution. The reality is, a compostable satchel, no matter how good its credentials, still creates methane gas when sent to landfill. Given that only 20% of us currently has access to a compost, my chances of minimising landfill, sadly, are greater by mailing out in poly bags.
The good news is that APCO is working towards 50% of all plastic used being recycled by 2025. They recommend buying poly bags and mailers with at least 50% of recycled content in them (the ones I've found are 80%) and then almost everyone has access to a RedCycle bin at our local supermarket, which means that in true circular fashion, these bags get recycled into more bags. Whilst I love botanical circularity, as a society we are not yet geared to be botanically circular and so until we are, I think this is the best solution for us at least.
What does this mean for you? Well when you order your Very Good Bra you will receive your bra in a mailer made of 80% recycled plastic which you can then take with you to your local Woollies or Coles and place it in Redcyle recycling bin for soft plastics, most usually at the entrance. Once it's in there, it can be recycled into a high quality product and used again, until we find community composting solutions that allow us all access.
I will be minimising my poly bag use out of factory by also providing them with recycled poly bags, and in a size where we can fit 10-15 of each size into one bag. According to APCO, the 3 greatest ways to reduce production of virgin poly bags are: reduction, re-use, and recycling back into high value packaging.
So whilst it kinda breaks my heart to use plastic, until we can bring industrial compost facilities into our communities, it's the best solution for me now.
On the topic of 80% recycled plastic poly bags, guess who uses them? Australia Post! Yes, they've a long way to go but they're working hard on environmental goals, and you can read their action plan here. I've previously been using a high profile, carbon-neutral courier company, but the rate of lost parcels has been high and at the end of the day, it's very important that parcels are delivered! I've switched to AusPost and with over 400 parcels sent out in our first month, we've yet to lose one. It works for me and I hope it works for you.
I welcome your views on any of this via email or social, I'm always prepared to consider another U turn over time.