At Halve Waste, we want to spotlight and support those individuals, groups and businesses that are “doing good” and helping us to reach our target of reducing our waste.
Arnolds Fruit Market located in Wodonga, the Arnolds family have been in business for 126 years and have seen significant changes in the packaging of their produce over the years. They were happy to talk to Halve Waste about how they are trying to reduce, reuse and recycle within their business and why.
Food waste/spoilage would be a real concern for you – what have you done to address this?
We endeavour to buy locally when in season to reduce food miles and seek to stock the freshest regional produce available which maximises the shelf life of the fruit and vegetables. All of our waste from cuttings or spoilage; for example, lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage leaves, carrot tops and onion skins, are placed into fruit bins and collected by a local farmer that we have had a 20-year longstanding agreement with. He takes everything for his animal stock and comes every day without fail. At times, he can be collecting up to 500kgs daily.
Packaging waste is often generated to transport goods. What waste is generated in volume and what do you do with it?
We have a range of packaging waste we deal with in a variety of ways with our main objective being to avoid its final destination being buried in landfill where possible.
A high proportion of our deliveries arrive on plastic wrapped pallets and typically we receive a lot of our incoming deliveries wrapped in plastic. To manage the packaging waste, we collect all of our soft plastics and they are recycled along with our compacted cardboard boxes that are damaged or surplus to our needs.
The blue CHEP pallets are on hire and are an exchange item. The other pallets we give to our growers and agents in the Melbourne market and they reuse them until they are unusable. On occasion we do get people asking for them and we are happy to give them away.
Another packaging item we collect is all the excess polystyrene boxes which we return to the Melbourne market where they are collected and recycled.
Tell us about ways you have found to reuse or repurpose items.
Our wooden apple hat bins are regularly returned to local growers to be refilled. We have had a couple of instances where we have been approached by local preschools and donated them for the preschools to make into cubby houses!
The majority of our produce is packaged in cardboard boxes. These cardboard boxes are reused for all of our wholesale orders and are offered to our retail customers to use as an alternative to plastic bags.
We also provide polystyrene boxes to our customers and often small local growers will collect them to repackage their soft skinned produce such as cherries, persimmons and zucchini in.
For waxed cardboard boxes that most leafy vegetables come packaged in, we reuse these continuously as fortunately, they are quite strong. However, when these do eventually break, they have to go into general waste as they can’t be recycled and no other solution has been found as yet.
Let’s talk about what you call your “controversial plastic” use. Can you explain why you package some foods in plastic despite having a minimal packaging policy?
Our lettuce and cauliflowers are examples of vegetables in which we do place in a plastic bag for hygiene and freshness reasons. We did trial removing the bags as we would ideally like to be plastic free, however found a noticeable increase in spoiled produce that resulted in being thrown out as they did not keep as well. To try and combat this use of plastic, we have introduced signs to advise customers that they can remove these bags and leave them in store (which we then recycle).
The big supermarket chains rolled out their removal of single use plastic bags in June, tell us your plans to address single use plastic bags.
As a smaller retailer competing with the supermarkets, we welcomed this move and made our own plans easier to implement. In 2019, we start our transition to becoming plastic bag free at our checkouts and within our wholesale orders. In store customers will have access to boxes for their produce or can buy reusable carry and produce bags or of course bring their own bags
What about behind the scenes…..like any business, paper waste is generated and often overlooked. What do you do to minimise paper waste?
In our office, we went paperless for all incoming invoicing and statements years ago which meant ceasing having to use large quantities of paper, envelopes, stamps and cheques. The buying role within Arnold’s is now 100% paper free with the sole use of iPad’s and emails only.
For the paper we do generate, we reuse as scrap paper before recycling or shred to use within store displays – have a look at our Paw Paws, we often display them in our shredded paper.
Reduce, reuse, recycle is everyone’s responsibility. How has your workplace embraced it?
As people become more time poor and move to online ordering, what initiatives have you been able to implement to avoid unnecessary waste?
Over a year ago, we implemented a minimal packaging policy in which most produce is placed in the boxes loose for our online orders. Wholesale customers have had the choice to opt in for minimal or no plastic packaging.
Why have you implemented these waste minimisation initiatives to your business?
Firstly, because we believe it’s the right thing to do to make the future sustainable. Secondly, we see reductions in operating costs when we implement these initiatives. Recycling the soft plastics has shown marked reduction in costs, as has going paperless.
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