• Choose less plastic

    Riverford’s veg boxes use less than a quarter of the plastic packaging of major supermarkets.*

Cheap, strong, flexible, with a lower carbon footprint than paper and infinite uses… In many ways, plastics are brilliant. It’s no wonder that the world has become increasingly reliant on them. Unfortunately, carbon footprint isn’t the only environmental issue to be considered; staggering amounts of plastic – around 8 million pieces every day – are ending up in our oceans, endangering marine life. The biggest culprit is plastic food packaging, accounting for 40% (or 20 million tonnes) of all Europe’s annual plastic use.

For 30 years, environmental sustainability has been at the heart of Riverford’s ethos. Growing, packing and delivering your food ourselves puts us in a unique position to use as little packaging as possible (less than a quarter of the plastic packaging used by major UK supermarkets*), and to collect what we do use from your doorstep for reuse or recycling.



Less plastic than supermarkets

We only use packaging where it’s strictly necessary to protect fresh produce and prevent food waste. All that can be is packed into the veg boxes loose, and we’re always finding new ways to use less. Since 2017…

  • 180km per year of plastic netting removed, swapping to compostable beech nets
  • Popular veg, such as cucumbers, unwrapped after testing how they survived delivery without plastic
  • 430,000 items per year moved into recyclable packaging
  • 1.5 tonnes of plastic (the equivalent of 30,000 2-litre bottles!) saved per year in total

To see how we’re progressing after these changes, we ran a comparable packaging study with the leading UK supermarkets. As we’re most well-known for our veg boxes, we decided to compare our 3 most popular boxes to comparable packaged supermarket products. In total, 30 Riverford products were compared to the supermarket equivalent. It’s important to note that we didn’t select items from the supermarkets that were excessively packaged; we simply compared organic where possible, in the same weights.

The results? Riverford’s veg boxes use less than a quarter of the plastic packaging of major supermarkets*.  We think we can get this closer to a tenth in the colder months (when produce is typically less perishable).


Riverford compostable beech netting


Home compostable plastics

We cannot do without plastic entirely – so it is critical that we find the most sustainable long-term solution, taking account of climate change impact as well as marine pollution. So we haven’t jumped to any easy answers. After many months of intensive research, we’ve decided on the sustainable future of our plastic packaging: home compostable plastic. By the end of 2020, we will use certified home compostable materials for all our punnets and bags. Whether on your compost heap at home, by leaving it out for us to take back to the farm, or through your food waste bin, these plastics don’t take long to break down completely - even at low temperatures.

Not all ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ plastics are as good as the terms imply. There are many different types on the market, and some are worse for the environment than conventional plastic. As well as being non-recyclable, they require high temperatures to break down, meaning they don’t biodegrade if they end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Home compostable plastic is different. It’s made from renewable raw materials, and breaks down at low temperatures. Many types are even certified to completely break down in marine environments, so they won’t cause harm if they do mistakenly end up in the ocean.

The home compostable route is particularly suited to Riverford: an impressive 82.5% of our customers compost their food or garden waste (based on a survey of 10,240 current Riverford customers – July 2018). This, combined with our well-honed system of collecting packaging to bring back to the farm for reuse, composting or recycling, convinced us that home compostable plastics were the right solution for us.



Choose Riverford

When you choose a Riverford veg box (winner of The Observer’s Ethical Product of the Decade award), you choose to say no to pointless packaging. The carrotiest carrots and the crunchiest cauliflower, all delivered to your door with minimum fuss and unbeatable quality. And better yet, it’s all 100% organic.


Riverford use less plastic

*Less plastic collectively by weight when we compared the contents of our 3 most popular boxes to the comparable, like for like, packaged produce purchased from 7 major UK supermarkets: Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Morrisons and Waitrose. Please note, box contents change every week and can vary in packaging weight, but we will be running this test every quarter for consistency. The box testing was carried out from 1st July through to the 29th July 2018.