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Plastic: Friend or Foe?

shutterstock584728828.jpgWritten by Tanys Franz B.Sc. 

At Red Dog Blue Kat, we are on an ongoing quest to create the best nutritionally balanced meals for your pets. We are also committed to continually assessing our products, packaging and processes in order to minimize our effect on the environment.  Just as the relationship between a cat and dog can be complex, we face a complex dichotomy with using plastic in our food packaging.  More and more of our customers are also expressing concern over the use of plastic, given its harmful impact  on our oceans and landfills.  We hope this blog will provide some transparency for the choices we have made and answer some of the questions we are commonly asked.

What plastic do we use?

Our choice of plastic for our meals and bones is a BPA-free plastic suitable for frozen meat products and approved by the CFIA for direct food contact.  

Can you recycle this plastic?

The answer is YES you can.  Clean out the bag after using with some hot water and return the bag to your nearest recycling depot.  For example, the plastic recycling program in British Columbia.

Check with your municipality about their recycling policies, as we are not aware of any municipalities that allow plastic bags in the blue bins or green bins.   

Why do we use plastic?

Unfortunately, plastic is currently the most effective method of safely storing meat products and reducing food waste. We follow a HACCP-based food system, which requires us to use a food grade plastic that is compatible with our processes, freezing temperatures, product; and approved by the CFIA for direct food contact.  Our meals are individually vacuum sealed then placed in a blast freezer at -30°C for 1 to 2 hours before being transferred to our finished product freezer.  These additional steps help preserve nutrients, reduce ice crystal size, and protect product quality.  Environmental considerations factored into these steps are specifically related to maximizing the shelf life of our products and minimizing food waste.  See article published October 31, 2019 in The Vancouver Sun entitled “Industry, government should work together to reduce food waste, packaging: study” by Jennifer Saltman.

Here are some relevant quotes from the article:

“According to Value Chain Management International (VCMI), which is conducting the study, almost 60 per cent of the food produced and distributed in Canada is never eaten — about 35 million tonnes each year. Thirty-two per cent of that loss and waste is avoidable and has a value of more than $49 billion.”

“The survey has found that packaging cannot be eliminated completely, and that plastic is generally deemed the most effective kind of packaging when it comes to reducing food waste — more so than cardboard, paper, glass or metal — by making food easier to ship and store, and helping it to last longer.”

“If we get rid of plastic, we as a society have an enormous problem on our hands. It’s not getting rid of plastic, it’s how you manage the plastic lifecycle more efficiently,” Gooch said.

Have we researched compostable and biodegradable plastic?

Yes, we have researched both compostable and biodegradable plasticsand not yet found one that is suitable for our product and processes.  Furthermore, current regional recycling programs do not have the system in place to deal with biodegrable and compostable plastic, so they end up in the landfill. More options are becoming available in Canada as technology improves, and this is something we will continue to research.

Have you considered bulk packages, like pucks or patties, instead of individually frozen meals?

This is a great question and one we had to research in order to make the best decision possible. The perception is that our packaging uses more plastic than foods that use “bulk” options.  Our goal is to reduce the amount of plastic we use so we conducted an experiment to see if switching to bulk would achieve this goal.  To research, we weighed 2 different competitor’s raw pet food bulk bags (specifically an empty 3 lb bag and 1.25 lb bag).  We then compared these weights with various combinations of our bags sizes (1 lb, 2 lb and ¼ lb) required to package the same weight of product.  The results were even surprising to us! We discovered that in some combinations, our total weight of plastic used for our products was less than comparable bulk packaging weight, and in all cases the difference was minimal, if any.  So in conclusion, despite “appearances” RDBK packaging uses the same or less plastic volume than comparable bulk products, but provides a much longer shelf life and less risk of food waste.  Our next steps would be to assess thinner bags to see if we can reduce that amount further. 

Have you consulted with experts in sustainable packaging for advice?

Yes, we have consulted with one of the leading experts in sustainable packaging. Her advice was to keep doing what we are doing as our choices are the best we can do with our current recycling capabilities.

shutterstock41764144.jpgWhat other initiative has Red Dog Blue Kat taken to become more sustainable as a company?

In 2018 we assessed all of our waste in our manufacturing facility to determine where we could REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE.  We were already partnered with a food recycling company that was picking up any unused food on a weekly basis.  They render this food into animal feed or biofuels.  Since 2010, we have been recycling cardboard, mixed paper and some plastic.  One area we saw a need for improvement was managing our soft plastic (shrink wrap, plastic that came into our facility on our raw ingredients).  This led us to switching our garbage service provider to a new one that enabled us to have a plastic recycling bin.  This reduced the amount of our waste that enters the landfill by 1-2 yards a week (52-104 yards per year).  Additional items we send off for recycling include: styrofoam, rigid plastics, refundable bottle and cans, batteries, and pallets.

What is your commitment in the future?

We care deeply about the planet and our impact on it.  Our commitment to you is that we will continue to assess our packaging, research new technology as it becomes available, and examine our processes in order to continually minimize the impact we have on the environment.

If you have any questions or recommendations for us toward this endeavor of becoming more sustainable as a company, please feel free to contact us at info@reddogbluekat.com.

Thank you to all the customers who have raised their concerns and who continue to challenge us to aim higher!