Biodegradation & Composting Packaging

Biodegradable Packaging Creates More Waste Than Non-recyclable Pouches Says Huel Founder

If you’re annoyed at not being able to recycle your Huel pouch, it’s a deliberate design choice made by the meal-replacement company after it discovered that biodegradable packaging actually creates more waste, founder Julian Hearn said.

The pouches of powdered “human fuel” are made from nonrecyclable plastic and are foil-lined to preserve the nutrients and vitamins inside, and robust enough to survive the journey to store shelves. Although each pouch contains 32 grams of plastic that has to be thrown away, one pouch contains enough powder to make 14 meals.

“We could today switch to a biodegradable pouch, but we know that’s weak, and we’ve tested it and know that it will split open once it goes through the delivery network. And then that 1.75 kilos of food has to be thrown away,” said Hearn speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit Europe.

“So there’s actually more waste produced by doing this. It’s a conscious decision to choose a plastic which is nonrecyclable but stronger, and its foil-lined so it protects the vitamins so that they can last 12 months.”

He added that the company has recently tested a recyclable pouch with a UV liner so that the foil is not needed anymore, but the new prototype packing needs to pass a 12-month testing process on the shelf.

Tradition vs Innovation

Huel has sold some 50 million meals since it was launched four years ago, but like rival Soylent the all-in-one liquid meals attempt to challenge the traditional exceptions of food have been met with some skepticism.

“Tradition is only relevant to a certain time zone. Our powdered product, people say is a very novel product, it is very new, but we found an article online that they had found powdered food in a cave that’s 30,000 years old,” said Hearn. “Just because people perceive it as a novel product, doesn’t mean that it is. We’ve been drying and powdering food for thousands of years, so in that sense you can say that Huel is a very traditional product.”

Neeraj Berry, CEO of consultancy Hermann’s, said food innovations in New York and San Francisco were often quickly adopted elsewhere. “I think we should use traditions to inform our decisions, but the stuff happening on the innovation side is extremely exciting, and it is incredibly important for us to continue to improve our quality of life.”

Some of these innovations could radically change the agriculture industry, according to Rob Moffat, partner at venture capital firm Balderton Capital. Moffat pointed to Infarm, which raised $100 million in a Series B funding round backed by Balderton in June, which aims to slash the number of miles between farm and fork by growing herbs in modular indoor farms in supermarkets and factories.


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Biodegradable Huel Packages Would Create More Waste Than Nonrecyclable Pouches, Founder Julian Hearn Says


  • On what basis does this gentleman makes this assumption? Any LCA that we do not know of?
  • Can someone of the bioplastics industry please reply to this gentleman?
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