An Ice Cream Club member asked me last month in an email if we would consider replacing our plastic pint containers with cardboard containers, like they use in the USA.
Of all the things we spent time researching when we were setting up The Creamery last year, packaging was the most difficult, drawn out and frustrating item. Initially we wanted to be using a cardboard, biodegradable pint container. Over the course of three months though we discovered:
1. Those old fashioned cardboard containers are actually lined with PPE to keep them from leaking. Which means they are not biodegradable, and in this country, pretty hard to recycle.
2. You cannot get those cardboard containers locally, unless you contract a packaging company to make you some. In which case, they would love to help you – so long as you order 200,000 at a time.
3. There are companies which are happy to sell and import these containers in smaller amounts for you – mainly from China. But them you need to be a registered importer, or pay an importing company to do this for you.
4. Bagasse, which is that lovely cardboard made from the stuff left over from sugar cane production, is available in pint containers. BUT these are made overseas, the lids don’t fit tightly, and they are porous, so they get frosty and finally soggy in your freezer.
In the end, we decided to focus on the ice cream, and the options available to us locally. We chose a plastic container which is recyclable, made in South Africa, affordable and reusable (because the lid actually fits the container properly). You can also see through the container and view the contents, which customers like.
The downside is, it is totally not biodegradable, and if you drop it from a height or try to gouge ice cream out the container with a spoon while it’s still totally frozen, the plastic can crack or chip.
For now, we’re sticking with these less-than-ideal-but-nevertheless-acceptable containers. But if anyone has seen other new products on the market we should be looking at, we’d love to hear about them.