Bac Orchids in Moerkapelle, together with Koen Pack in Amstelveen, developed a bamboo sleeve for Cymbidium cut flowers. Coming up with a custom packaging was a learning process for both parties. "Our aim was to make functional packaging that really adds something in terms of sustainability. And we succeeded", both parties say with pride.
Gertjan Bac from Bac Orchids puts two sleeves on the table. One is made of plastic, the other one of bamboo. Until recently, all Bac Orchids cut Cymbidiums were packed in the plastic sleeve. But that has changed. "We are going to pack our Cymbidiums in bamboo for two of our customers, Bama Bloemen and Hoek Groothandel," says the grower. "They are positive, and so am I."
"A plastic sleeve like this is easy to use," says Ruud Duivenvoorden, account manager of packaging specialist Koen Pack. "But consumers often do not dispose of plastic sleeves in the correct waste bin, which means that they are not recycled." And that's a shame, says Bac. Together with his brother Dico, he has already taken many measures to make Cymbidium cultivation more sustainable. "Dico has been experimenting with biological control on our farm for a long time. We have stopped using chemicals for a number of years. We have solar panels to support our power consumption, and we recycle all our waste. Having a license to produce is important to us for the future of the company. This also includes a less environmentally harmful sleeve."
Cut Cymbidium grower Gertjan Bac (l) and Koen Pack account manager Ruud Duivenvoorden (r) show the sleeve made of bamboo with pride.
Bac decided to call around but was told by many packaging companies that what he wanted was not easy to achieve. Koen Pack picked up his question, and they got to work together. Bac wanted a sleeve in which the flowers on the cymbidium branch remain visible and which, at the same time, offers protection against handling damage during packaging and transport. The material of the sleeve also had to be really sustainable. The first glance fell on a bioplastic sleeve made from corn or sugar cane. "But unfortunately," says Duivenvoorden, "you don't get much with that because bioplastic has to go with the residual waste." A sleeve with a paperback and a transparent front made of recycled plastic has also been considered. "But that is not a solution either because then you still have to separate the two sides of the sleeve when throwing it away. For recycling, packaging made of one material is best." With that in mind, there were two choices left: either a sleeve made entirely of recycled plastic or a sleeve made of bamboo.
Beautiful and natural
Bamboo has been in the Koen Pack range for some time now. It is a renewable grass that grows faster than trees. Bamboo also converts 35% more CO2 into oxygen than trees. "Bamboo is, therefore, even more sustainable than paper. That's what I wanted," says Bac. In addition, the material does not wrinkle too much and can withstand moisture better than regular paper. In consultation with Bac, Koen Pack designed a sleeve with a partially open top so that the Cymbidium flowers remain visible. "The whole package looks nice and natural," says the grower. When designing the sleeve, no packing machines had to be taken into account. "We pack all branches manually. You shouldn't be too clumsy because you don't want the flowers to be damaged on the branch", says Bac while carefully sliding a branch into the new sleeve.
To gauge the interest in the new packaging, the grower sent two branches in bamboo sleeves to a limited number of customers as a test. Bama Flowers and Hoek Wholesale embraced the idea. Bama mainly supplies to customers in Scandinavia, where they are more advanced in thinking about sustainability. And Hoek is focused on the UK, where new rules have recently been introduced (the Plastic Packaging Tax) to limit the use of plastic in packaging. Bama also discussed the new packaging with its end customers; the florists. And they also responded positively. A mention on the bamboo cover indicates that the cover can be disposed of with the old paper after use, Bac shows. "Florists are happy with that."
The only downside of the new sleeve is the price: bamboo is a bit more expensive than plastic. Bac: "But Bama is a progressive company. We have agreed that each will bear half of the extra costs for the bamboo sleeve." The grower and Koen Pack are satisfied with the outcome of the entire process. Although it is still in relatively small numbers, Bac is determined to scale up the packaging project in the future. The grower argues that in the future, plastic made from fossil raw materials will become more expensive, and bamboo will become cheaper because that material will then be used more massively. "Bamboo is now an investment, but it will pay off. I am convinced of that."