HealthPost's journey to sustainable paper packaging

Packaging and our use of plastic has always been of concern to us. Each month we send more than 25,000 packages all over New Zealand and the world. This year we committed to eliminating outbound plastic from our supply chain, and over the last six months we’ve been working to make that reality (we’re kicking off a trial this week)… what an interesting journey it's been! We know this is a long read, but we’re keen to share what we’ve discovered.

From day one, we’ve been aware of our impact on the world around us. Given we started doing business in the late 80s, we were well ahead of the wave – it’s a real pleasure to see other businesses waking up to sustainable practices!

Our belief that individual wellness and the wider world are linked led to the creation of our Better World donation programme. We’ve gifted more than one million dollars (NZD) to environmental and social charities, including almost $100K to the Farewell Wharariki HealthPost Nature Trust. As Trust directors and neighbours to Farewell Spit, we’re committed to protecting this precious part of Aotearoa.

For us, giving money to good causes is not enough. We’re mindful to minimise and mitigate our day-to-day impact as well. Each year we have an annual tree planting day, planting over 7,000 trees in total, and we’ve offset more than 600 tonnes of carbon through a range of initiatives.

Packaging was on the agenda for 2018. The first thing we found was that thoroughly evaluating the relative merits (and pitfalls) of different options was no simple task.

Compostable courier bags looked like a promising option initially, but then we discovered that less than half the bag is actually plant-based, the rest being petroleum! We just weren’t comfortable suggesting our customers put this in their compost or worm bin. By asking the right questions, we discovered that these products don’t break down easily in marine or landfill environments either.

We’re not bagging (no pun intended) other brands that use compostable – every little bit helps – but our discoveries meant compostable bags, however trendy, were not the option for us right now with current technologies.

Another consideration was whether we could organise soft plastic recycling in the Golden Bay area. We know this is common in bigger centres, but there is no option in our ‘hood’. Again, we were close to a partnership with the local supermarket to offer this. However, this fell through due to the end recyclers struggling to find solutions for the soft plastics already being recycled. There is a limited market for the recycled plastic products they’re producing, and destinations abroad are reluctant to take NZ soft plastics.

After many conversations, and investigating a range of options, we’ve settled on an all-paper solution for now. From late October, we’ll run a trial replacing some sizes of our plastic bags and bubble wrap bags with paper Jiffy bags. Jiffy bags are made of paper and are stuffed with recycled post-consumer paper for padding. We’ve had fun leaving these in the rain and throwing them around our dispatch department to test their strength! The Jiffys will join our paper box and paper wrapping range. Customers can expect to see paper Jiffys from late October – we’re testing a few different sizes.

Your part in all this? Well, firstly we’d love feedback on how the paper Jiffys are working for you, especially if you have experienced any breakages or damaged bags. And once you’ve received any of our paper packaging, you can re-use it, or simply pop it into your curbside recycling. Being completely transparent, we don’t recommend you compost our packaging, as our inks are not vegetable based, and we can’t be sure what inks have been used on the post-consumer paper stuffing in the Jiffys (think magazines, newspapers etc).

All going well, and the trial being a success, you can look forward to new bags carrying our logo in early 2019. We’ll be continuing to assess our packaging next year and beyond, including looking into more sustainable printing and vegetable ink options.

We’re also taking steps to tackle inbound plastic. As a business, we’re far from plastic-free, but we’re making progress. We’ll continue to share our journey, and welcome any feedback.

Lucy Butler
Executive Director

2019 Update. The Trial was a great success! Find out more in our article It's Official! Our Paper Jiffy Bags Are Here to Stay!