Zero waste - Returning packaging for reuse

Having read a few threads here it seems like there is no urgent movement towards a more sustainable packaging just yet.

So since some of us are looking to go minimal waste my question is:
Could the packaging be returned to Huel for reuse?

Or suggest working with a company like Terracycle to work out a recycling program as they work with materials that cannot be put in the usual council recycling. They have started a programme for baby food pouches that were not recyclable.

I would love to use Huel more but the non recycling version of packaging is off putting.



Hi there, it’s a really good point and something we are extremely passionate about. So let’s dive into it.

Absolutely not. We are working so hard with suppliers to bring in not just a recyclable package, but a biodegradable one. It is not that easy and has problems at the moment. Which brings me onto my next point:

We must think about overall environmental impact. Plastic is a hot topic at the moment, and rightly so.

But there is no point focusing purely on plastic and neglect carbon emissions from vehicles and wastage from spoiled food. In your suggestion of refillable pouches for example that would involve up to double the amount of emissions from vehicles. The problem we are having with our pouches at the moment for example is their strength, if pouches break more then we end up with more spoiled and wasted Huel, contributing to total food waste.

At the moment our packaging waste is minimal, below is a photo of 6000 empty pouches of Huel, it fits onto one singular pallet. If you were to eat 2000kcal of Huel everyday for 57.5 years this is the amount of waste you would produce! Each pouch contains 14 x 500kcal meals and only weighs around 42g, compare this to the packaging in the lunches and breakfasts many grab on the go (the products we are directly competing with), this is tiny.


In addition, we use cardboard and recycled paper for almost everything else apart from the sellotape that binds the box (which we are going to be changing soon). Our booklet is made from recycled paper and uses environmentally friendly, vegan-friendly inks, as does the box printing. We pack out our boxes with untreated brown paper, not plastic or nuggets.

We’re always looking to improve and I am by no means saying we think we’ve done enough, because we can always strive for better. Simply at the moment, we’re doing our best. I hope that helps with your concerns over our plastic wastage impact :blush:

[Edits: pallets are 6000 pouches not 5000]


And that’s why Huel is the best.


Wow. Great info Tim. You’re doing a brilliant job. Thanks!


I recently signed up for one of those coffee bean subscriptions. They send me beans every fortnight and they come in a plastic pouch, inside a plastic mailing packet. The packaging looks identical to the stuff Huel uses: plasticky on the outside, foil on the inside.

If I send the pouch and the mailing packet back to them (which I’ll do very infrequently, maybe a year’s worth at once) they will cover the cost of recycling it with Terracycle. Obviously they’ll only shell out for the recycling of their own branded packaging.

I take @Tim_Huel’s point that Huel’s packaging waste is minimal (although bars and granola packs are more wasteful), but sticking 100 empty pouches in a big envelope and sending it back via Royal Mail would be very efficient. So the only sticking point, assuming Huel packaging is accepted by Terracycle, is whether Huel is prepared to pay for the recycling.

And that recycled plastic could be used to make a plastic chair for a schoolkid, who would otherwise have to sit on a rickety old chair and be unable to focus on their chemistry studies. That child will grow up to invent a wonder substance that absorbs carbon from the upper atmosphere and coverts it into rays of pure kindness.


On similar note, I was sent some vegan snack bars this week. It is a start-up company and they have just been released. They are working towards compostable packaging, but at the moment they don’t have it, so they have sent a pre-paid envelope for me to send wrappers back to be recycled by YesRecycling. Cool idea.

Only tried one of the bars - 8 different, but it was very nice, no added salt, sugar etc. This one, main ingredients were: carrot 40%, chinese broccoli 13%, tapioca starch 12%, buckwheat 10% and raisins 10%. 50% carbs (of which sugar 6.8%) fibre 13%, protein 9%, fat 11%


I’m not saying we’re totally against this idea, however would resending the pouches result in double emissions from transport? Which has more impact on climate change – recycling the packaging, or not sending it back? I don’t know the answer, but these are questions that should be asked.

@Gulliver_Huel do you know if Terracycle or YesRecycling could recycle our pouches?

More emissions yes. Double emissions no, not remotely close to that. If I send back 100 pouches, that’s dozens, maybe as many as 50, orders that I’m returning in a single package. As your pallet photo demonstrates, they take up very little space and weigh very little, so there’s no need for a service like DPD. They’ll easily fit in the Royal Mail van that picks up from my Post Office every single day, and they’ll easily be dropped off by the Royal Mail delivery that passes Castle Huel every day.

The best possible solution is for no customer to throw their packaging away, and to re-use it around the house as storage bags, or, err, waterproof stuff to, I don’t know, wrap around leaky pipes or something. I dunno, really ugly hats? We could even just hang on to them until a better solution presents itself. Most people are binning them though.

The hat thing could catch on tbh. You already have people proudly wearing your logo on shirts. Just invert the logo on the pouches so it’s right way up when we put them on our heads, like the shameless slags we are.


Haha, perfect! The conspiracy theorists will love an alternative.

Yeah, it would be ideal for people to send their pouches in one package, it could be a package that we say to send when it’s full - to prevent people sending back every delivery.


The granola bags make handy little pouches to store stuff in if you use a clip bag closure and how about opening them up and taping together to make a nifty emergency blanket?

1 Like

Taking into account the backlash on the new shirts, idk what people will say about them hats…


Thinking long term, and the plan to ban single use plastics i’ve been trying to source other products in bulk, things like shampoo and shower gels etc and trying to think about the carbon emission issue. I would really like to buy in 5 litre tubs which are recyclable but the cost of shipping and the obvious carbon emissions of transporting it around doesn’t make it viable either. But what about a refill shop, the same for huel where you could take your containers and refill them. Or even better, localised Huel production plants, and local farmers producing the food. Is that something worth exploring.

Switch to shampoo bars and body soap. I’ve been cutting down on plastic and those were the easiest things to sort out.

Local Huel depots would be cool but Huel is nowhere near popular enough for that to make financial sense.

edit: here’s some soap/bar shampoo I’ve been using. I do prefer shower gel but I can cope without it. And my hair felt weird for a couple of weeks but it’s nice again now.

They also do a bar of shaving soap, and it’s absolutely shit.

1 Like

I use Friendly soaps and shampoo bars…they are damn good. I even have a travel tin now. I’ve not tried the shaving bar tho.

My mrs is trying a soap bar. Cheers for the link, I’ll take a look. I only shave once, maybe twice a week. I wouldn’t bother at all but her in doors doesn’t like it. Not such a bad thing at times, like garlic to a vampire lol.

The shampoos looks good, I gonna buy one as for the shaving soap, just found out at work today we’re allowed to have beards. Was told the first day I started all staff have to be clean shaven. Someone confronted the manager about this rule and said no other store has that policy why just us? He found out it’s because the manager doesn’t like them she thinks their unprofessional and unhygienic but she can’t stop employees if they want to have them. So a bunch of lads are growing them now just to piss her off.

So I’m probably just gonna stop shaving now.


plastics technology is constantly evolving and traditional ‘hard to recycle’ packaging such as multi layer packs are a prime focus on improvement - there are many advances coming through the prototype stages which make recycling very easy such as this:

however these new methods will still rely on the adoption of recycling plants to move to this new technology which is always the sticking point. It is not feasible for brand owners such as Huel to go into a large scale investment to do their own recycling so while they could adopt these new pack technologies there would still need to be the reliance on the recycling industry following suit.

Long story short – you as a consumer are better served lobbying your local government and political parties to prioritise investment in new recycling technology. Large MNC brand owners are creating their own recycling programs too but the sad reality is too many people demonise plastics without doing much about it.

‘Zero carbon’ yacht trips for outraged ranting in the UN would be a prime example – especially when the yacht is loaded with single use drinking water bottles (rather than fitting a water reclamation system) and then everyone flying home instead of sailing back.

PET is easily recyclable under current technology but in the UK the percentage of it that is returned for recycling is minute and barely breaks into a double figure percentage. This means that brand owners who want to use food grade PETr from recycled materials face chronic shortages.

1 Like

This was a really damning report but sadly indicative of the publics general attitude to plastics and recycling. Consumers tend to hold manufacturers & brands responsible for tackling plastic waste, but don’t seem to see the need to worry about it themselves.

The report found that 48% see manufacturers as being primarily responsible for tackling plastic waste, as opposed to governments (24%), retailers (7%) or themselves (19%). Less than a quarter of the 65,000 people interviewed in 24 countries believe they should be taking any personal responsibility for their plastic waste, while half expect manufacturers to take the lead on tackling the issue.

It also found that nearly half the respondents had little or no interest in environmental challenges and do not choose products because of their sustainability credentials.,-Who-Does-Consumer-response-to-plastic-waste

1 Like

Hmm, I normally don’t comment on these kinds of things, but this intriguing topic.

What about making the packaging for powder completely vacuum sealed, removing ziploc portion and making the entire packaging compostable? And similar to how first-time customers get a plastic shaker, t-shirt, etc. ship a clear plastic branded container to store the Huel powder on arrival (which could maybe conveniently have scoop storage). I would think that this might save some money especially for recurring purchases as packaging might be a more minimal (no need to include a ziploc style bag.)

Just a suggestion, interested in hearing what people think.


The main problem with packaging being compostable is that it requires specific conditions to compost and virtually nobody has a composter at home, so it will end up in the general rubbish which will be inside a bin liner.

Also taking away the ability to reseal the pouches will not be popular, unless some type of free clamp is provided for any new pouch.

1 Like