The wrapper around Alter Eco’s chocolate truffles looks like normal metallic foil. But after you eat the candy inside, you can plant it in your backyard.
It’s the first home compostable candy wrapper–safe for compost bins or backyards–and the company is now working on making all of its packaging compostable.
While recyclable wrappers exist, made from flexible plastic, it’s hard to find any recycling facilities that can actually accept the material. Composting, by contrast, seemed like a better answer.
“We strive to make being eco-friendly easy for our consumers and want to avoid asking our fans to sort tiny pieces of plastic and bring it to a special facility,” says Edouard Rollet, co-founder of Alter Eco Americas. “Due to its size and the ‘impulse purchase’ nature of the product, we believe consumers will make the easiest choice available to them, which is putting it in the trash. We’re confident that those who are intrigued by the material, and have green waste pickup, will compost it.”
Buried in a potted plant or backyard, the wrapper almost completely disappears in about six weeks. The material is mostly wood-based, the inks are non-toxic, and the tiny amount of aluminum inside breaks down into an environment where bugs, worms, and fungi can thrive.
It wasn’t a simple change to make–the company had to design a material that would work on standard equipment and keep the truffles fresh. “One of the biggest challenges and fears about compostable materials is keeping them intact for the entire product’s shelf life,” Rollet says. “As chocolate is temperature and humidity-controlled in its distribution chain from the factory to the consumer, we had the best possible shot at the packaging not disintegrating before it was intended to.”
By January 2016, Alter Eco plans to debut its next compostable package, a quinoa pack that’s normally made from plastic. They’re also hoping that compostable packaging will begin to spread through the industry and help bring cost down. “We’re confident production costs for compostable and eco-friendly packaging will decrease as more companies and more consumers support and embrace packaging material that ‘leaves no trace,'” he says.
While the wrapper degrades most quickly under soil, it would also degrade if it happened to blow out of a trash can onto the ground. “The material itself is made from sustainably grown birch and eucalyptus trees, so it’s essentially a piece of paper in a slightly different form,” Rollet says. “It even burns like paper. If this wrapper were littered, it would degrade the same as a leaf would out in the environment.”