Almost all ice cream containers, although made mostly of paper, are bound for the landfill in a lot of places because they can’t be recycled. The plastic coating inside the container is the reason why.
As the average American reportedly eats more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year, that waste adds up. But even companies that switch to more sustainable packaging are learning the harsh realities of recycling. Plant-based brand NadaMoo! over the next few months will roll out containers with a coating made from sugarcane-based polyethylene and paperboard sourced from “responsibly managed forest trees.”
But although Evergreen Packaging, the creator of the Sentinel Fully Renewable Ice Cream Board (the official name of the new packaging, which is also used by Oatly and Coconut Bliss. ), said it is the first of its kind and is fully renewable. Though that “fully” comes with some big caveats, as NadaMoo! CEO Daniel Nicholson learned right before the company was set to incorrectly announce that its new packaging could be recycled by customers, a message that would have also appeared on its label.
The materials can only be recycled by the carton supplier, Stanpac, through a recycling partner that breaks down and separates the components. This means that in many places, consumers will still not be able to send these containers to local recycling facilities.
“Our new knowledge of this complexity further reinforces the misconceptions within our society at large in our understanding of how our recycling system works down to the subtle nuances,” Nicholson said in an email statement to The Spoon. “It’s too complex for us to try to oversimplify.”
Nicholson, however, still celebrates the fact that the packaging is made from more renewable and sustainable components.
“Doing good for our customers and for the overall sustainability of our planet has always been the ethos of who we are as a company,” he said. “By taking these incremental steps to be an even more eco-friendly, sustainable product and company, it is our hope that we will be joined by additional, larger parties in our category to maximize the overall impact of these changes.”
NadaMoo!, in its 14th year of business, creates coconut-based frozen desserts that are sold in thousands of stores across the country, including Target and Walmart locations. It raised capital for the first time in 2017 through a $4 million series A round. Although the company is growing, Nicholson said a lot more needs to be done for the industry to be more sustainable.
“If you combine the sales of Oatly, Coconut bliss and NadaMoo!, if we’re the only ones leading this charge, we have a lot of work to do to push the future of the food business,” Nicholson said. “These problems are massive and the only way to make change is for all of us to invest in change.”
The fact that even more sustainable packaging can’t be recycled in most places illustrates the harsh reality of recycling around the world: many materials aren’t actually recycled. Plastic remains the largest problem, as more than 90 percent of the material ends up as trash. Nestlé’s Häagen-Dazs brand offers a different approach, teaming up with delivery company Loop to create a reusable ice cream container. (In the eggs section, Pete and Gerry’s is testing a reusable container.)
As NadaMoo! shows, even food companies have difficulties understanding the intricacies of recycling, which means we all must work harder if we want to cut down on our waste.