Our attention turns to sustainable materials
for wrapping bouquets, flowers and more.
The term “sustainability” has moved into every channel of floristry – from products used by commercial growers to retailers and their customers. Recyclable or compostable product options have been available for much of the past decade and even earlier, say some manufacturers who supply the marketplace. It’s just that now, with consumer awareness on the rise, there is more demand for “green packaging” and, thus, the options are becoming more affordable. “Right now, it’s a fair playing field, and the pricing between conventional and sustainable is about the same,” says Pieter Sluiter, general manager at Koen Pack USA, based in Miami. “That makes it an easier conversation with retailers.”
Changes range from symbolic gestures to radical shifts. For Peterkort Roses, a commercial rose and cut-flower grower in Hillsboro, Ore., the switch in 2019 to wrapping rose bunches in brown butcher paper was important, says Sandra Peterkort Laubenthal, who manages the company’s stall at the Portland Flower Market. “I kept hearing from florists about the waste in the floral industry, and it was starting to get to people,” she explains.
Peterkort had been wrapping its 25-stem bunches of hybrid tea roses and 10-stem bunches of spray and garden roses in “sheets of precut plastic,” Laubenthal says. “Now, we use plain brown butcher paper and add a label with our logo. We continue to tie our bunches with cotton string rather than rubber bands – and the cotton string breaks down, too.”
The feedback has been positive. “I think it gives the feeling that we are trying to reduce some of the trash and plastic that florists have to deal with,” Laubenthal says.
Like many of the bouquet wraps gaining popularity at the retail level, the challenge is customer education, says Aileen Flicki, product manager at Decowraps, based in Miami. For example, the company’s multilayer bouquet wrap has three components, so consumers need to separate them for recycling or composting.
“Our customers, from growers and suppliers to supermarkets, have never been really educated about what are sustainable options and what the differences are among them,” Flicki says. “We want to play a part in going green and changing the status quo in our industry.” She urges retailers to treat sustainability as a branding decision. “It’s a marketing question on how you want to position your brand. And based on that, you want to decide which packaging material is best for you and then educate the consumer.”
To that end, Decowraps classifies “sustainability” into three categories (TEXT CONTINUES BELOW THE PHOTO SLIDER AND CHART).
Understanding the source from which the product is created. For example, “bio-based” products originate from nature and are, therefore, considered renewable resources.
Understanding what happens to packaging once it leaves the store. These products are dependent on consumer behavior. In order for packaging to be disposed of in a sustainable manner, consumers must place the packaging in their recycling bins or take them to composting facilities.
Understanding the carbon footprint of your current packaging, including a focus on the production of carbon emissions emitted into the atmosphere.
Interest in plant-based products is on the rise across all consumer categories from fashion to home décor. In floral packaging, the most innovative plant-based products are derived from corn or sugar cane.
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a bio-based thermoplastic and aliphatic polyester derived from renewable and organic sources such as corn starch and sugar cane. According to Koen Pack, PLA is a good first step in replacing new plastic; it is often used in disposable dishes or garbage bags. PLA is similar in appearance to ordinary plastic, but it is more sensitive to heat and light, which speeds up the composting process. “It’s a plastic alternative, and it’s biodegradable,” Sluiter points out. Koen Pack also offers “BioBasics” packaging options, which combine PLA sheeting with kraft paper.
Bio LDPE (Biodegradable Low-density Polyethylene), which is a sugar-cane-based material, is also available from several manufacturers. “Bio LDPE is a product that has negative carbon footprint, which means you’re taking carbon out of the environment to be able to produce it,” says Flicki of Decowraps. “If you are using Bio LDPE in a sleeve or as a film for your packaging, you should do some marketing behind it to tell the positive story to consumers.”
Kraft paper is made from wood pulp and, obviously, also plant based. Many manufacturers use the FSC-Certified (Forest Stewardship Council) designation for their kraft-paper products.
NOTE: Butcher paper and kraft paper are made with the same raw materials, but butcher paper is treated with coatings to strengthen it for food- grade use – specifically to withstand moisture and to provide containment of oils, or meat- related moistures.
Sluiter encourages floral retailers to do their homework. “Plastic is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it gets properly recycled,” he says. “I always recommend the message of recycling, which means educating customers with the use of logos on the sleeve design.”