We often receive questions from our customers about how we handle packaging waste from our suppliers. We love these questions because it means our customers are thinking deeply about where their products come from and the impact these products are having on our planet—all the way through the supply chain. So good!
At Jarr, we are passionate about reducing waste in the world which means not only do we care about helping you reduce your household waste by providing you with returnable packaging, but we are also passionate about reducing waste in all aspects of what we do. This consideration impacts which suppliers we are willing to work with and how we work with them. If there is a supplier who can bring us their products with no packaging waste they automatically become our first choice.
Here, in priority sequence, are the questions we ask ourselves about supplier packaging when deciding whether or not to carry a product:
1. Does this product come from the supplier in returnable containers?
We believe reusable and returnable is the way of the future and we implement this as much as possible at all levels of our business. We always prioritize suppliers who can use circular models throughout their supply chain. We consider the suppliers who can provide us with their product without any single-use packaging our #1 choice.
We receive our cheese, yogurt, pasta sauce, coffee, veggie burger mix, fresh pasta, ice cream, potato chips, pierogi, falafel, cookies, granola, dishwasher detergent, household cleaners and so so much more in returnable containers from our suppliers. This means each of these suppliers works closely with our team at Jarr to deliver, collect and clean the reusable containers. It's team work at it's finest!
Because of the nature of these returnable systems we often work with local companies to facilitate these transactions. One of the many reasons we love local!
2. If the supplier is already using returnable containers, do they use a deposit system?
Deposit-based return systems are important to us because they incentivize customers to return their jars instead of sending them to the recycling depot. If a supplier is allowing for returnables but not using a deposit-based system it makes it hard for us to operate within our model. The way to get around this is for a supplier to use our jars for packing products or send us their products in bulk returnable containers and we will pack them into our jars for distribution for them. Easy!
3. If supplier packaging is single-use can it be paper or cardboard?
If suppliers can't offer products in returnables, which is often the case when products are coming from a distance, we ask that they deliver in paper. And, we always prefer recycled if that is an option!
We receive almost all of our dry pantry staples in large brown paper sacks including grains, legumes, dried fruit, teas, most candy, and most spices. Most of our produce arrives in cardboard boxes.
While subbing out plastic for paper isn't the answer in the long term (trees are essential to our survival!), we know with the limitations of current supply chain systems that paper is the current preferable to single-use plastic. We appreciate that paper and cardboard are compostable and recyclable and will not clog up and harm bodies of water and landfills in the same way single-use plastic does and we continue to work with suppliers at a distance to see if we can implement returnable systems even from afar. Shoutout to Mint Cleaning who sends us returnable containers all the way from Ucluelet!
All our paper and cardboard is either reused, composted or recycled.
4. Is the packaging reusable in another way?
Some products we carry come in big bulk plastic buckets. If a product is only available in a single-use bucket we first see if we can source the product from a supplier who uses returnable buckets instead. If that isn't an option, then we ask ourselves if the product is essential to the line up. If it is deemed essential, we focus on the re-use of the packaging. Bulk plastic buckets can have additional lives. This means we won’t send buckets to recycling — we reuse them at Jarr or give away to others who can use buckets themselves.
Big love to Live for Tomorrow and Mint Cleaning who are two of our liquid soap suppliers who provide us with products in returnable buckets. You are awesome!
If you would like an empty 18L pail added to your next order please leave us a message in the comments of your order and we will send it to you free-of-charge!
5. Last resort: is the product essential and is there less packaging than if you bought it at a store?
While single-use packaging, even in bulk, is our very last resort. We can't always find essential products without some soft plastic. One of the examples of this is we haven’t found a dry pasta that doesn’t come in some sort of large single-use plastic bag (although, shout-out to our fresh linguini from Pastaggio, their pasta comes completely package-free to us!). While one large bag is much better than a bunch of smaller bags, this is still not our ideal and we are always pushing our suppliers to find an alternative. We recycle all soft plastics we receive from our suppliers at the zero waste centre in Vancouver.
Thank you to our suppliers!
We want to give a HUGE high five to all the amazing suppliers who go out of their way to eliminate packaging with us. We appreciate you more than you can ever know and we would not be here without you.
Here is a list of our suppliers who bring us their products in returnable containers - we encourage you to try them out:
City Beets Farms
Coastie Craft Burgers
Earnest Ice Cream
Ethical Bean Coffee
The Farm House
Golden Ears Cheesecrafters
Le Meadow's Pantry
Luv The Grub
Say Hello Sweets
Smart N Local
The Good Chocolatier
Household and Personal Care Products:
A Healthy Beginning
Ahimsa Green Products
Green Room Body Co.
Live for Tomorrow
Are you a supplier that can offer returnable systems when distributing food or household supplies?
We would love to hear from you! We work with bulk returnables, or if your consumer facing packaging is in returnable containers (think Earnest Ice Cream!) we prefer working with companies who have deposit based incentives in place.
Emily Sproule is the founder of Jarr, a mom of two young school age children and an environmentalist doing the best she can with the time she has. Emily lives in East Vancouver, is passionate about business as a force for change and is excited to bring package-free grocery delivery to Metro Vancouver.