Less plastic — more fantastic: How meal kits companies reduce their packaging impact

Elena Vardanian
10.10.2021
3 min read

Meal kits are sold to consumers as a way to reduce at-home food waste. Yet the amount of plastic they produce gives the willies, but at the same time they're a great stepping stone for learning better habits that can contribute to lowering waste in the long run. Some meal kits are already less wasteful than others thanks to progress and technologies we are surrounded with.

Here is the list of those meal kits companies which are already rethinking the plastic problem and surprise us with their ground-breaking packaging. 

Blue Apron 
Blue Apron company has a partnership with How2Recycle, that teaches you how to recycle the various packaging materials found in your shipment (1). Besides partnership, the company intends to use only 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable material for its meal kit boxes by the end of 2025. Blue Apron looks to use 75% post-consumer recycled content in its boxes too. Currently, only 85% of packaging is recyclable with more than 40% post-consumer recycled content (2).
Hello Fresh
Like Blue Apron, HelloFresh has been focusing on efforts to improve its environmental profile. Meal kit giant HelloFresh US recently announced cardboard packaging made of 100% post-consumer recycled content for its HelloFresh and EveryPlate meal kits. This packaging will enable HelloFresh to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6,800 tonnes and save over 115,000 trees per year (3).

Dutch HelloFresh customers are testing the Keep-it® shelf life indicator. The smart sensor technology of Keep-it® constantly monitors the product's temperature over time, and shows the actual remaining shelf life. According to Tilman Eichstädt, SVP Supply, Product & Sustainability it’s “an innovative alternative to the rigid and often misunderstood “Best Before” and “Use By” expiration dates which lead many consumers to dispose of supposedly spoiled food” (4). 
Just Salad 
Just Salad meals for a pre-cooked meal kit arrive in curbside recyclable or compostable packaging, and labels on the packages are water soluble. Housemade kits have “91% less packaging by weight than the average meal kit.” (5) Recipe cards for this “no-commitment” meal kit contains disposal instructions for the packaging. Just Salad doesn’t use dry ice or other cold storage materials for its packages, meals are meant to be delivered within an hour (6).
Freshly
Freshly meals are pre-made and fully cooked. All you have to do is to reheat them in a microwave or oven. Packaging is relatively sustainable since it's mostly recyclable cardboard (7). Their meals come in Go-Green plastic containers that are microwave-safe, don't release BPA when heated, and are made with a 30% cleaner process than other plastic manufacturing (8).
Yumble
The last, but not the least, is meal kit service Yumble. It’s meal trays are made from PP 5 plastic and can be recycled with standard curbside recycling, along with the paper sleeves on each meal (7). 

The bottom line

Meal kits as a category have long been championed as a potential avenue for fighting food waste, but the tradeoff for that convenience up to now has been excess amounts of packaging waste, which nullified any other sustainable aspects of the meal kit. However, we see how companies strive to curb their single-use packaging addiction by reducing the amount of unnecessary wrapping.