Interview with the Owner
Quick Chat with James Wilkinson, owner of Planet Friendly Packaging.
How did you get involved in the industry?
I had been working various roles in hospitality throughout my university years and was actually still working in a cafe part-time as a waiter and cook when I began distributing packaging for BioPak in 2013. I have always really enjoyed working in cafes and restaurants. Something about delivering customer satisfaction in a dynamic environment kept me engaged for years while finishing my studies. After graduating with business management and psych science degrees I found that most of the jobs available to me in the corporate world weren’t really what I was looking for. I had long considered the possibility of going into business myself and the cafe I was working in at the time was serving in BioPak’s take away coffee cups, so I decided to give them a call and see if there were any opportunities to do some distributing for them in Brisbane.
What excites you about packaging?
It’s something that almost all of us encounter every day without much thought. In that sense, it’s the perfect vehicle for change because it’s so commonplace that once people become conscious of the issue it becomes impossible to avoid.
Takeaway or disposable packaging is a microcosm for the much larger issue we have with waste and responsible management of resources and the environment. Moving away from fossil-based products and towards things made from responsibly sourced, rapidly renewable resources is basically the same thing as the world moving away from fossil fuels towards electric transport. They are happening on parallel tracks and I find that quite exciting. To be a part of the solution rather than the problem. I’m definitely not proclaiming that compostable packaging is a total solution but nothing in sustainability ever is. Progress is about taking steps in the right direction rather than giant leaps or disruptions. Plus, we now have the opportunity to close the loop with business recognising the value in these resources through commercial composting, which I feel is quite revolutionary.
Where do you see the industry moving in future?
I would love to say that everyone will be carrying around their own cup, bowl and spork for eating on the go but realistically I don’t see it happening. Convenience has become central to our busy lives and practically it would mean a major, and lasting shift in attitudes and behaviours.
I think the materials we use will continue to improve environmental outcomes over time. We are already seeing palm leaf, wheat and rice husk, hemp and bamboo based products trickle into the marketplace and these are encouraging signs. I think people will start valuing their own waste and doing what they can to reduce their output while utilising whatever waste is generated. We only recently banned lightweight plastic bags and introduced the container deposit scheme in QLD so unfortunately, patience is a necessary part of the equation at the moment. Eventually, governments will see the value we do in retaining waste streams, closing the loop and producing value adding outcomes like soil for farmers and electricity for households and other businesses.