Reducing packaging by switching to bulk canola oil
By switching to purchasing canola oil in bulk we've saved nearly 200kg in cardboard and 35kg of plastic a year.
One of the main ingredients of Taramasalata is Canola Oil. At Elysian Foods we get through around 100L of oil a week. We used to buy our Canola Oil in 15 or 20L boxes (known in the trade as BIBs or Bag in Box) from the likes of Gilmours or Moore Wilson’s.
A note about Canola Oil. It’s a pretty generic product, a heavily refined version of Rapeseed Oil. This means that the product is very similar in terms of taste and other properties, regardless of where its sourced.
A note about BIBs – they are pretty much as you’d expect. The oil is packed into a bag, which comes with a tap. All this is packed into a sturdy cardboard box.
The Gilmours 20L BIB breaks down as follows (all weights are approximate):
Box – 745g cardboard
Bag + Tap – 180g (plastic – not recyclable)
At Elysian Foods we were using around 5 of these 20l BIBs a week, or approximately 250 per year. If you do the maths, in terms of waste we’re generating the following amounts:
Cardboard – 186.25kg
Plastic – 45kg
Which is a lot of waste. Admittedly most of the cardboard can be recycled, but that’s still not ideal – better to reduce than recycle.
The alternative way of sourcing Canola Oil is to buy it in a 1,000L container. These are referred to in the trade as IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers) or Totes. After a bit of research, and with help from our friends at Oilseed Products and Loscam, we were able to source re-usable IBCs. The only disposable part is the plastic liner and connection that goes inside the solid outer frame (see photo).
When you’ve finished the 1,000L of oil, you take out and dispose of the bag. The bag weighs approximately 2.3kg. You then collapse the solid frame, called a Pallecon, and return it to Loscam for re-use.
We need to allow for the plastic used in the liners for the IBCs when we calculate the final waste reduction. We’ll use 5 of these 1,000L IBCs instead of 250 x 20L BIBs, so that’s five of those plastic liner bags at 2.3kg each, a total of 11.5kg of plastic.
So the total waste reduction from sourcing Canola Oil in bulk using the Loscam Pallecons is:
Cardboard – 186.25kg
Plastic – 33.5kg (being 45kg from the BIBs less the 11.5kg plastic used in the IBCs)
Which is quite a lot of waste reduction from a small food manufacturing company from changing just one aspect of its production.
A note on costs
Unlike most commodity pricing, Canola Oil is the actually more expensive per litre when you buy it in a 1,000L container, compared to buying oil in a 20L BIB. In fact, it’s worse than that. When you buy the oil in bulk, you have to pay to rent the Pallecon – the re-usable container from Loscam that the oil is transported in. Plus, as we’re based in Wellington and the oil comes from Auckland, we have to pay for the freight to get the oil down to Wellington, and then another freight charge to get the empty Pallecon picked up.
When you add all these additional costs into the picture you can see that we’re paying over 25% extra per litre of oil. And that’s despite the fact that we’re removing over 200kg of waste from the economy.