First Voice: Waste Packaging ft. Helen Chambers

Waste packaging is doing serious damage to the environment and wildlife, and much of it is due to the lack of recycling and reuse of packaging.

Self-proclaimed as “a bit of an old hippy”, Evolve Flowers founder Helen Chambers is on a mission to make the flower industry more sustainable.

“A big issue for florists is that a lot of flowers come packed in cellophane sleeves – they’re drowning in cellophane,” she says. “In the UK it has to be industrially recycled, and for small businesses that’s not practical.” Evolve therefore supplies both wholesale and retail flowers without plastic. Some 95 per cent of Evolve’s flowers and foliage come from farms within a 40-mile radius of its studio in Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. This means less packaging, with many blooms arriving naked in buckets or on pallets. The retail business delivers stock in recyclable, hand-stamped cardboard boxes.

“We’re also delivering to florists on returnable trays or trolleys,” she says. “Taking the packaging out of the chain in the beginning is the best solution.” Bouquets are dispatched in glass vases or recycled craft paper. Other materials include biodegradable labels; paper tape, string and raffia; biodegradable bags; flower food in compostable sachets; and cotton wrap for flower stems.

“We’ve got wooden tags on our vases that say, ‘reuse, return, recycle’,” she adds. “We also use biodegradable glitter, made of eucalyptus pulp.” Evolve’s biggest challenge is logistics, as reducing packaging limits shipping options. “Traditional couriers aren’t fi t for purpose for perishable products,” she says. “I’m trying to get funding for our own logistics, or find partners able to deliver unboxed flowers.”

A qualified florist tutor, she is also a sustainability educator: “We’re putting out guides via our website. We’re advising suppliers on what florists want, and what’s not necessary.”

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