This week I’ve been having an ongoing back and forth with a company called Mindful Chef.

Mindful Chef are one of those recipe box companies, promising customers nutritious and healthy meals that take less than thirty minutes to cook.

The company is hugely successful: started by two friends in 2015, they’ve sold over 12 million meals to 200,000 customers, and were acquired by Nestlé in 2020.

Their meals are tasty and healthy: pre-pandemic, I used to order from them once a week.

Recently, we decided to restart our order. But when the boxes came, the packaging had changed.

The cardboard cool box storing the chilled ingredients was now packed with what were described as ‘eco-friendly ice packs’.

These were filled with ‘a non-toxic polymer gel … you can wash it down the sink without causing any harm.’ But when I dutifully snipped my ice packs open, I had second thoughts.

I’ve unblocked my drains often enough to be wary of pouring such gloopy stuff away.

The ice packs in my box were made by a company called Hydropac, who sell both gel and water ice packs.

I had a look at their website, where I found an article headed Gel Polymer: The New Fat Cake?

The article, promoting their pure water ice packs, said the gel packs ‘can’t be recycled and … is not biodegradable … pouring it away down the drain is the same as flushing away wet wipes or hot fat.’

I went back to Mindful Chef.

‘You can pop the contents down the sink without causing any harm’, the customer care person reiterated.

I rang up Hydropac. ‘Oh God, don’t do that’, the person on the phone replied, stressing the gel needed to be incinerated.

I went back to Mindful Chef again. ‘I can assure you that our ice packs are harmless’, I was told again.

Mindful Chef are a certified ‘B Corp’ business, which according to their website means they ‘are leading the way to make the world a better place’.

I asked them for a definitive response on packaging but none was forthcoming by my deadline. So who am I to believe?

If packaging is problematic, is zero packaging the answer?

Last month Salisbury got its first zero waste and plastic free store, Blueberry Den.

Here, customers can either come with their own containers to purchase everything from muesli to shampoo, or have their goods delivered in paper bags and reusable bottles by e-cargo bike.

When it comes to making the world a better place, this approach might offer the superior package.

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