Everything You Want To Know About Sustainable Packaging,
But Are Afraid To Ask
Wow, what an exciting time! Every day it seems there’s a new headline warning us about the plastics in the oceans, announcing new environmental legislature in the UK, or condemning a new item in our lunch bag (#banstraws).
We at London Bio Packaging are chuffed to bits that the general public is taking such a passionate interest – it’s a tidal wave of positive momentum for the planet.
In all the hubbub though, it seems there is still some confusion out there. We’ve received a flood of questions about sustainability and our packaging. So in attempts to cut through the noise and clarify some misunderstandings, we thought we’d gather all of those questions and put together a comprehensive collection of answers.
Of course, we don’t claim to be the keeper of all knowledge or have an absolute claim to truth – some questions don’t even have answers yet – but we’ve provided our perspective as it stands today in attempt to arm you with good information and some follow-up questions to help you arrive at your own informed conclusions.
The way we see it, the better we all understand the facts, the better choices we can make, the better off our planet!
Here, then, are our exhaustively assembled responses to all of your questions – and then some.
(Tip: if you don’t want to navigate through all these questions one-by-one, click here to easily read our Sustainability FAQs as a really, extra interesting article – you won’t regret it!)
Ah, yes, that is the public opinion isn’t it! And there are absolutely many challenges when it comes to plastic. But we can’t fully demonize it and would never support a complete ban as we need to take a holistic look at plastic. What about blood bags and syringes in hospital? What about all the resulting food waste if we can’t wrap our food in plastic? This is to simply to say that at this point in our society, plastic enables us to live healthily, it enables us to have fresh food ready when we need it and facilitates vital life support in hospitals, and emergency services. So until we have alternatives for all these use cases, we can’t and shouldn’t completely ban plastics.
When plastic use is frivolous, when it’s not recycled, and when it is littered. There’s two sides to think about: the manufacturing of plastic and what happens in disposal. See, plastics are meant to endure – they are made from a finite resource, oil, and we all know that the environmental impacts of extraction have already come under fire. Today most of the outrage comes around the disposal and litter side of things. Have you heard the claim that every piece of plastic you have ever used is still in existence? Whether or not that’s wholly true, the idea is right: plastics can take centuries to degrade. You’ve probably noticed the term ‘single-use plastics’ quite a bit. It’s all a part of our troublesome one-and-done throwaway culture. If you think about your everyday life and the amount of plastic you use only once and then immediately throw away it can be overwhelming – think plastic forks, grocery bags, food containers. Or what about the plastic you use for a month or so and then throw away – think toothbrushes, laundry detergent containers, hand soup dispensers. We use these items for seconds, but they can last a lifetime. But the worst is litter – don’t get us started on litter.
Litter in general is abhorrent – what’s more heartbreaking than seeing our beautiful planet contaminated by human rubbish? When you throw rubbish in the park or see someone fly-tipping a bin, the rubbish is no longer contained. It leaks into our environment: it’s in our parks, our water streams, our oceans, and therefore our food chain – if you can believe it, probably all of us have unknowingly ingested plastic. It’s killing species and endangering eco-systems. And that’s just how it impacts us in the UK – many other parts of the world have it much worse as litter disrupts water supplies and blocks water flow. Litter by all accounts is not sustainable. Not for our planet, not for our oceans, not for life on earth.
Sources:  https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/ocean-life-eats-plastic-larvaceans-anchovy-environment/ Ocean Life Eats Tons of Plastic—Here’s Why That Matters National Geographic 16 Aug 2017
First and foremost, consider how you use your packaging – is it fit for purpose? Are you putting one napkin in the to-go bag or 10? Always encourage your customers to think again before grabbing their disposables. Otherwise, unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer today – but don’t worry we will help you figure it out. The quest for best is natural. By the same tack, a business’ attempt to claim the best is also equally natural. But, the reality is that it’s far more complicated in the UK and there is no unequivocal best when it comes to disposables in the UK. But there are better options (read more about how our products are better). These are options that though not perfect are still fantastic progress for a more sustainable system. And not to mention that better also leaves room for continual improvement – we at London Bio Packaging would never settle for just best. So we say better, is wildly better than nothing, worst, and even best.
Great question. Though there are a million and one ways to cut the cake and measure for ‘sustainability,’ the overall picture is the only one to look at – and it’s the hardest to measure.
Carbon calculations and lifecycle assessments can definitely help give a good indication of good or bad. However, they can also be terribly misleading and leave us asking a lot of questions. Especially in today’s world where we are more aware than ever of the impact of our littering culture, would knowing a product has a ‘good’ carbon calculation help us to know if it’s relative harmfulness to our oceans than another? From where do you start measuring and where do you end? Take one of our bagasse clamshell containers: some firms start measuring environmental impact at the planting of the sugar cane, others start at the manufacturing process. You can imagine, this leads to very different carbon calculation results, neither of these are wrong, but are either right? And how do you compare what’s not like for like? What’s worse: the amount of water used to grow the almonds for almond milk or the amount of methane produced by dairy cows? Can we ever really know?
We say learn as much as you can, keep asking good questions, remain critical when you see carbon numbers, and rely on your gut to make a decision about which environmental cause is most important to you. Oh, and another tip: don’t just focus on doing less bad, the more good you can contribute, the better off we all are!
When you see claims that sound too good to be true, they often are. If anything claims to be the absolute best solution, now you know better than to take that as gospel.
At London Bio Packaging, we like to recommend looking at two main areas when evaluating a disposable’s sustainability: is it sustainably produced with sustainable materials and can it be sustainably disposed of or repurposed.
We aim to sell the most sustainable disposables out there – but it’s not always the same for every business. That’s why we sell two ranges of sustainable packaging so that you aren’t stuck with one option and can choose the road to sustainability that best suits your business. Both of our ranges look at both sides of the sustainability coin: Sustain™ which is made from renewable resources and is 100% commercially compostable, and Revive™ which is made with recycled material and is widely recyclable.
That depends on what waste disposal options are available in your business’ area! When it comes to disposables you have to think about the context as well. Both are made from what we consider more sustainable materials. On the disposal side of things, Revive™ might be better for some as in their area recycling infrastructure is better than the composting infrastructure. For others, Sustain™ might be the right choice because they are most interested in packaging made from renewable resources (plants). It can be quite complicated, but don’t worry, check what your local waste collection can do and then speak to our team who can help you match what’s right for your business.
Renewable resources are materials that can be, well, renewed. That means that once you take some for use, more can easily be replenished. So for example, our Sustain™ range is made from renewable resources like trees, corn-starch for bio-plastics, or crop by-products like sugarcane pulp – all sustainably grown and processed into the high-quality packaging you see in our shop.
By comparison, oil-based plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – meaning, once we use the resource, there’s no getting it back. So, oil and other fossil fuels are limited.
To us, what’s important is that waste doesn’t get wasted. In other words, that it gets renewed into resource in one of two ways: composting or efficient and effective recycling.
There are some people that say yes, some that say no. For us it’s as simple as this: plastic is made from polymers manufactured from different sources. Bio-plastic (PLA) is made from polymers manufactured from a biological source (plants). It’s designed to look, feel, and act like a plastic, but with a few key differences. Instead of being made from finite resources, it’s made from renewable resources and is 100% commercially compostable. So to us, bio-plastics are still technically plastics, but better for the environment than their fossil-fuel based cousins. In hopes of being completely clear and avoiding any confusion we call our bio-plastic products, “oil-based plastic free” or if we’re feeling clever “fossil fuel free!”
Recycled materials are simply materials that have been used before. In our case, this would be the recycled paper/card we use or the recycled plastic we use. On the paper side, these are usually recycled from post-consumer paper waste. And on the plastic side, you might have wondered what happens after you’ve done the good deed of dropping your plastic into the recycling bin? Well, depending on what type of plastic it is it might get down-cycled (recycled into a lower quality product) or up-cycled (recycled into the same product or one of equal quality). That’s why we love the plastics in our Revive™ range so much: it’s made from the only plastics that can be upcycled back into food grade products (rPET mixed with PET). And what does that mean? That our Revive™ range is plastic bottles made from plastic bottles. How cool is that?
Good question – it’s a bit more complex than just dropping your rubbish in the recycling bin and magically turning into something else. Though everything is technically recyclable, not everything is recycled – even if you pop it into the recycling bin. Beyond the limitations of recycling due to food contamination, recycling can be especially confusing because not all regions or boroughs will recycle the same things, bins aren’t always clear, and on top of that, different waste collectors ‘recycle’ different materials.
In our world, recyclable not only means that the materials which make a product could be disassembled, re-modeled, and used again, but also means that the materials will be recycled as they are accepted for recycling across the UK. For example polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and rPET mentioned earlier are recycled throughout the UK, as is paper and cardboard. These are what we call ‘widely recyclable.’
Well this could be quite a long history lesson, but we’ll cut to the chase. In an ideal world, from Isle of Wight to the Old Man of Hoy we would be able to recycle the same materials. But when the UK waste services were deregulated in the 80’s they became subject to market forces and waste became commercialised. Therefore, it allowed people to make money out of recycling – which is a good thing! So waste collectors collect waste that they believe they can sell. The challenge however is that it resulted in a system without a nationwide standard or collection system ensuring that all recyclable plastics are actually recycled. That’s where we are now which is not to say that things aren’t changing. People are waking up to this and solving this puzzle is in part why the Government is building their Waste and Resource Strategy. It is improving, but there is a long way to go.
All paper hot drinks cups have to have a waterproof lining to safely hold your drink. Though the cup is made from paper, the lining is typically made from the oil based plastic. The recycling challenge with coffee cups is to separate the inner lining from the paper cup so that the materials can be used again. Today, there are two dedicated paper cup recycling facilities in the UK, the main one is ACE. Rather excitingly the industry has recently invested in the ACE facility to try and make all plastic lined paper cups widely recyclable. Thanks to the industry’s investment, ACE now offers any waste management provider £55 a ton for coffee cups. This is a great start, but there’s a long way to go as we still need consistent, nationwide collection systems for that material.
Well our friends at WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) have developed the colour coding system which you probably recognize called OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label). And soon to come will be a system for labelling even disposable packaging with a consistent label scheme. Take a look at their Recycle Now website for loads of information on what to recycle, where, and how: https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling.
We recommend you read through this official list of all symbols that refer to recyclability, it’s incredibly valuable: https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained.
Or for a quick snapshot, we’ve gathered the below for you:
The most recognised symbols in the UK are from Recycle Now, an initiative of the government waste body WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). Their on-pack labelling on food items, for example, looks like:
“Widely Recycled” means 75% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.
“Check locally” means 20% – 75% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.
“Not recycled” means less than 20% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.
Mobius-LoopThe Mobius Loop is a universally recognised symbol and tells us an object is recyclable. Although whether the object can be recycled in a particular recycling centre is dependent on the facilities available.
Like this however (see left), the Mobius Loop does not indicate that the object contains any recycled content. Only when the loop contains a percentage sign, does it indicate recycled content. A Mobius Loop showing 50%, for example, implies the item contains 50% recycled content.
Plastic Resin Codes
The Mobius Loop should not be confused with the symbols denoting different types of plastic. These tell us which plastic is used and do not automatically indicate that an object is recyclable.
Most plastics have one of these stamped into or written on them with a number inside. This identifies the type of plastic resin used to make the item – the numbers between 1 and 7 simply defines the resin used. So, despite common misconception, the numbers do not indicate whether something is more recyclable than the next – it’s simply a coded system.
Only by knowing about the different plastic type can you know if the object is recyclable. For example:
- PET or PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate) is widely recyclable in the UK. Example of an object made from PET: mineral water bottle.
- PP (Polypropylene) on the other hand is rarely recyclable. Example of an object made from PP: bottle lid.
The number inside the loop indicates the type of polymer.
The Green Dot symbol is not a recycling symbol and does not indicate an object is recyclable.
It is in fact a scheme covered under the European “Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive – 94/62/EC”. It means that the manufacturer contributes towards the cost of recovery and packaging.
Similarly the Tidyman is not a recycling symbol. It’s merely to convey the message ‘Do not litter’.
Indicates the object is made from aluminium and can be recycled. Example of object: drinks can.
Indicates the object is made from steel and can be recycled. Example of object: tinned food can.
Glass-RecyclingThe object is made from glass and can be recycled.
Most glass bottles and jars are suitable for recycling even if they do not display this symbol.
The wood used in objects showing this symbol has come from a forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It means the wood used is sustainably produced, and that you are not contributing to the destruction of the world’s forests.
This indicates an object has been certified by the National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM), as being made from waste paper
or waste cardboard. There are 3 variations of the symbol, depending on whether the object contains 50%, 75% or 100% recycled material.
Indicates the electronic item is covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive).
The directive places responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical equipment on the manufacturer. The manufacturer should establish an infrastructure for collecting WEEE, so that consumers can return the WEEE free of charge. The manufacturer is also obliged to use the collected waste in an eco-friendly manner, either by ecological disposal or by reu
Often found on household batteries, this symbol indicates that they should be not be disposed of in household waste. Many supermarkets now have facilities to dispose of household batteries.
Currently the UK produces 3.7m tonnes of plastic waste and only 29% is recycled and 56% is recovered. On the upside though, the UK has a target to recycle 57% of plastic by 2020. For us, that’s not quite good enough – we hope we can all blow that target out of the water! So, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Our Sources: http://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_recycling.aspx
It’s only depressing if you want to look at it that way – of course there’s hope! The great news is that the Government is investing in recycling. There are more and more products being made from recycled materials which gives plastic a value. If consumers and businesses like you continue choosing products made from recycled materials or that are recyclable (and wherever possible, both!), then we really will start to look like a circular economy.
It is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Composting is also an excellent example of how a circular economy could come into play.
Our greatest desire is that we as a country (and global community!) can develop sustainable circular economies. It’s why we believe in our packaging so much! Both Revive and Sustain are designed with a circular economy in mind.
Sustain: made from plants, can be composted to grow more plants!
Revive: made from recycled plastic, gets recycled into more recyclable packaging!
We recommend this highly informative and entertaining video to get a good grasp: The Story of Stuff.
In general, compostable materials are materials which biodegrade in a composting process through the action of naturally occurring micro-organisms within a specified timeframe.
For us, when we say a product is compostable we mean it has been certified to standard EN13432 or equivalent which certifies that the material in question will decompose in an industrial/commercial composting facility within 12 weeks. And specifically, the resultant compost will be used to grow more plants and is ideally PAS100 compliant. Another type of compostability is home compostable which means you can pop something into your home compost system with your personal food waste and gardening scraps, and it will eventually break down into that nutrient dense mulch that you can use in your garden.
Interestingly, under the European Waste Directive composting is also classed as recycling. But don’t let that confuse you: if you drop something that’s marked “compostable” into the recycling bin, more often than not it cannot be recycled. To use the two terms interchangeably is, in our opinion, intentionally misleading and serves to confuse a space that is already confused. So, when it comes to composability, we prefer to use the terms composting, compostable, compost for compostable.
No, our products in the Sustain™ range are industrially compostable, not home compostable.
They should get binned with food waste and other commercially compostable materials. To be commercially compostable means that a product will degrade into compost only under very specific and rigid criteria which are created in a commercial facility including heating the materials to certain temperature. During composting, compostable products will break down into carbon dioxide (CO2), water, inorganic compounds and biomass which leaves no visible contaminants or toxic residue/substances. After this process, the waste is turned into a nutrient dense mulch ideal for growing of more plants. Again, for a product to be called commercially compostable, it must be certified to EN13432 or its equivalent.
There are quite a few certifications that you might want to familiarize yourself with as unless certified to one of the below standards or to an international equivalent (ASTM D 6400), a product and packaging item cannot be assumed to be compostable:
EN 13432:2000 for packaging. This is the European standard which certifies that packaging will compost through industrial, commercial composting within 12 weeks. Products certified as such will have under gone testing and met evaluation criteria. This standard comes under the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC) and has been translated and implemented in all the European Member States.
EN 14995:2006 for plastics used in wider applications than packaging. This standard is similar to EN13432 above but includes plastics used in non-packaging applications.
PAS 100: The Publicly Available Specification 100 (BSI PAS 100) is a specification that denotes a quality standard for compost. So in an ideal world our EN 13432 certified packaging will become part of PAS 100 compost.
Great question. To get composted properly, our packaging along with food waste needs to get sent to a licensed In Vessel Composter, or IVC for short. This is where the compostable packaging, food and garden waste is repeatedly super-heated, breaking the materials down and mixed together to create a nutrient rich compost, suitable for supporting our country’s crop production. That means it won’t get composted in your home composting bin. It must go to a commercial facility.
We have two main types of commercial composting in the UK.
The first is In Vessel Composter, or IVC for short. This is where the compostable packaging, food and garden waste is repeatedly super-heated, breaking the materials down and mixed together to create a nutrient rich compost, suitable for supporting our country’s crop production. This is where our packaging must go to get composted into compost!
The term ‘in-vessel composting’ covers a wide range of composting systems, all of which involve the enclosed composting of waste – allowin oxygen levels, temperature and moisture to be controlled.
IVC can be a one or two stage process: the Animal By-Products Regulations (ABPR), introduced in 2003 to reduce health and environmental risks, allow waste excluding meat to be treated in one stage but require waste including meat to undergo two stages.
In stage one, food and garden waste is firstly shredded to a uniform size and loaded into a bay or tunnel. Naturally-occurring micro-organisms, already present in the waste, start breaking it down. The process draws oxygen from the air and raises the temperature to the 60-70ºC, which is needed to kill weed seeds and pathogens. Compost is produced, with water vapour and carbon dioxide given off as by-products.
If needed (if the original waste includes meat), the material is transferred to a second ‘barrier’ to ensure the material is fully sanitised. The two stages each take between 7 days and 3 weeks.
The compost is then left to mature in an open windrow for approximately 10-14 weeks to ensure stabilisation. Screening takes place to produce different quality compost.
The second is Anaerobic Digestion, or AD for short. This is where the food and garden waste is broken down by microorganisms in an oxygen free environment. The biogas these little critters produce as they are munching through the food and garden waste is harvested as energy. The final product left over once these guys have worked their magic is the compost. However, it is really important to know that these microorganisms do not like packaging, and so our compostable packaging should not be sent to an AD composting facility.
n Anaerobic Digestion (AD) biodegradable waste breaks down in the absence of oxygen (in contrast to In-Vessel Composting where oxygen is present). It’s widely used to treat wastewater in the UK, and increasingly used for food waste and manure.
In the first stage, ‘pre-treatment’, the materials are mixed together to ensure the right consistency; water may be added. The material is then screened for
contaminants, such as plastic and grit. Packaged food often has its packaging removed at this stage as well (although in some AD plants, this ‘depackaging’ happens at the end).
Next, the materials are fed into a digestor. It’s here that they break down into digestate (a bio-fertiliser that can be used on the land for healthy plant growth and soil), as well as biogas (mostly methane and Co2).
Because of this biogas, AD is another Waste-to-energy (WtE) or energy-from-waste (EfW) technology like incineration (point 1. above). Waste-to-energy is all about ‘energy recovery’ from waste. That is, generating electricity and/or heat from waste – either directly from the combustion of waste like incineration, or by producing a combustible fuel like AD.
The biogas produced in AD can be used directly as fuel, in combined heat and power gas engines, or upgraded to biomethane (Co2 and other contaminants are removed leaving a gas that’s 95% methane). This biomethane is injected into the gas grid or used as vehicle fuel.
Ahhh, you’ve picked up on one of the most confusing distinctions in our industry: biodegradable vs. compostable. Even we get tripped up sometimes! Biodegradable simply means that a material or product is created from biological sources, such as paper or plants, and will break down into something over time. What biodegradable does not tell you is what that material or product will break down into and how long it will take. Some biodegradable products are actually harmful to the environment because they break down into micro-plastics! Compostables on the other hand will not create harmful micro-plastics when they get broken down and have a very specific and certified time-limit: they break down with food waste into nutrient dense compost in a commercial composter within 12-weeks. Remember, all compostable products are inherently biodegradable as they are created from biological sources and will break down. However, not all biodegradable products are compostable. We are pro-compostables and always encourage customers to do their due diligence on any products that only claim to be biodegradable.
And don’t be fooled, biodegradable doesn’t necessarily always equal sustainable. Often, when marketing materials use the term “biodegradable” we encourage you to ask more questions: after how long? In what environments? What will it break down into? Will it break down into environmentally beneficial materials? We would never encourage a biodegradable only product. It’s why we sell compostable products which have certified answers to these questions: after 12-weeks, in a commercial composting facility, into nutrient dense compost with food waste, and yep – great for growing more plants.
No way! Our products are compostable which means they can break down within 12-weeks only in a commercial composting facility. It means it can break down in a commercial composting facility within 12-weeks.
First of all, littering is littering – don’t do it ever! And again, compostability in packaging means it can break down in a commercial composting facility. If anyone tells you their packaging can naturally break down in the park or your garden in a few weeks, it should trigger some skepticism and some serious research – we recommend you challenge them because it certainly cannot.
No, no, no. Our Sustain products are designed to break down only within the commercial composting facilities. Despite common misconception, compostable products do not dissolve in water. The benefits of our products when thinking about the ocean, is that they all have sustainable means of disposal and can turn into precious resource (either compost or recycled plastic).
But an important point: even if our products did break down in water (which they don’t!), there is never an excuse to litter.
We believe that creating products that would naturally break down in our oceans or parks over time is sidestepping the issue completely. We don’t want to look for an excuse to litter, we want to eliminate litter completely! Thus we ask you a question in return: shouldn’t we be seeking ways to eliminate rubbish seeping into nature altogether? Our products are meant to be a solution to eliminating the concept of packaging waste entirely. If after use, Sustain™ lives its purpose of becoming compost and Revive™ becomes recycled material, well, that’d result in no packaging waste at all! Eureka! This concept is known as the circular economy in which all products and materials are used and reused indefinitely. No extraction. No waste. No litter. No problem!
They stay there. It’s a problem. We don’t like it. And it’s the same when we litter the land with anything too. Our Sustain™ products however are not designed to end up in the natural environment and not even in a landfill. They are designed for a very specific waste stream for a very specific end of life: Sustain™ should get commercially composted to become a valuable resource after use, not just a one-and-done-forever material.
The problem is two-fold: the waste infrastructure and people’s behaviour. How often do we see bins overflowing with rubbish? But at the same time, how many of us keep walking to find the next available bin?
Did you know that 61% of Britons litter? Unfortunately for too long waste has been a case of out of sight out of mind. We don’t always tend to think about the consequences when we throw things away. So too many of us don’t take the time to dispose of products in the correct bin. Here in the UK and particularly when compared to our continental neighbours we are only just beginning to rationalise the waste infrastructure.
Right now in the UK, what happens to your waste depends on which local authority your waste collection comes under and on which waste collector. For example a resident on Oxford Street in London may have their glass waste collected by the local authority, but the ground floor restaurant underneath may not be able to recycle glass with their ‘waste provider’ – seems pretty crazy, huh? That’s why we offer two ranges to help you match your waste stream to your packaging.
There’s also a need for proper binfrastructre. We feel recycling signs could be less confusing, there could be more bins, and collection could be better. Lots of room for progress!
Well, the composting infrastructure in the UK is in its infancy. Today, there are very few commercial composters that will actually accept compostable packaging.
Across environmentally minded packaging suppliers, users, national and local government, efforts are being made to find a solution. The big reason which keeps the composting bird stuck on the runway is plastic contamination in the waste. At the time of the London 2012 Olympics there was a rush to compost (we actually supplied the Olympics – 120 million pieces of packaging!). However since then, composting sites one by one have turned down compostable waste because of plastics found in it, i.e. the bin is only meant for food waste and compostable packaging, not plastic. That in turn led to poor compost output – how is a composter meant to sell compost that has a plastic fork in it? So, they’ve slowly stopped accepting or collecting compostable packaging – and it’s not something they’ve advertised either which means that the situation is none too clear.
So, in a nutshell, we do believe in compostables and we are working on re-mapping which composters do take packaging, we know that several of our customers compost packaging successfully and we want more stories like that! Even if only one new shop successfully composts packaging, that’s a whole lot of rubbish turned into resource – no litter, no landfill, no problem!
Unfortunately this can and does happen due to lack of local packaging composters and appropriate collection services. It makes us genuinely sad if we learn our packaging goes to landfill. We see it as a wasted resource! Gold shouldn’t go to landfill, neither should our packaging (yes, we’re that obsessed with our packaging). This is why we have two ranges of packaging, Sustain™ and Revive™, and it’s why we encourage all customers to choose packaging that matches their waste stream.
Through our two Sustain™ and Revive™ ranges we are able to match the most sustainable packaging to our customers waste management capability. If you have better recycling available to you over composting, we’d encourage you to consider Revive™. But if you have no option to recycle or compost, we like to remind our customers about the unsung merits of our Sustain™ packaging: it is made from renewable resources (plants!). If you have no control of where your waste ends up, is it not better to use packaging made from renewable plants? It’s a resounding “yes” from us.
In this case, the packaging should go into the General Waste bin. It’s certainly not ideal, but it’s significantly better than littering or contaminating the recycling bin. We always tell our customers that if you can’t reach the best solution, at least aim for better. Because Sustain™ is made from renewable resources it’s a much more sustainable option than one made from finite-resources like oil-based plastics.
What’s great about composting is that it also takes care of food waste. As you know, along with plastics and single-use packaging, food waste is one of the most important topics when it comes to sustainability and climate change. You could see compostable disposables as a two-birds-one-stone solution. There’s also no concern of food contamination as composting requires organic waste like food scraps. Another benefit is that they are made from renewable resources and can become the compost that grows even more plants. But that’s not to say that recycled and recyclable packaging isn’t a better, more sustainable solution for some – that’s why we also sell our Revive™ range.
Both our Sustain™ and Revive™ ranges are designed for very specific waste streams to keep them out of landfills. For something to break down it requires a magical ingredient: oxygen. But at a landfill waste gets buried which removes, you guessed it, oxygen. So nothing really breaks down in a landfill. That’s why they’ve been able to unearth still completely legible Victorian era newspapers from landfill sites – crazy isn’t it?
Did you know Henry Ford invented the motor before there were proper roads? Progress doesn’t happen all at once and it requires a series of compounded events to happen. Today, the compostable products exist – and not just in our café packaging, but they also exist in supermarket packaging like fruit stickers, grocery bags, etc.. The composting technology also exists. The missing pieces are not-so-simply the vendor buy-in, public buy-in, and sufficient momentum to get the right infrastructure in place. But we think our partnership – us, your customers, and you – is helping to build that momentum. The more businesses that have compostable packaging, the more pressure there is on the system, the better the story is to develop the proper infrastructure. If we can continue to prove the concept, maybe that will help shift our culture. As the public’s outcry has increased in the past few months, there’s already a ton of momentum for compostable packaging – let’s keep it going!
Oh, and don’t forget, they’re made from renewable resources and that in itself is a whole lot of better for the planet.
When determining whether a product is sustainable or not, we like to look at the sustainability of both the materials used to make it and how it can be disposed. Both Revive™ and Sustain™ are made from sustainable materials. Whether you choose Revive, made from recycled plastic, or Sustain, made from renewable resources (plants!), you are using a product that is made from good. That’s half the battle and it’s a huge step in reducing waste and decreasing the negative environmental impacts of oil extraction and plastic production. You should feel more than proud of your choice to use sustainable packaging from Sustain™ or Revive™.
Though there is no perfect solution today when it comes to sustainable disposables, that is no reason to do nothing and in our opinion is certainly no excuse to choose the worst options – we say if you can’t reach best, at least aim for better. After you’ve encouraged customers to reuse and to reduce, our packaging will be your best claim for sustainability and the planet due to Sustain™’s renewable materials and composability, and Revive™’s recyclable elements and recyclability. On top of that, there are economic, social, and personal reasons why we think you should choose Sustain™ or Revive™.
In general, we as a global nation need to conserve our planet’s resources and not be economically dependent on finite resources. Recycling in the UK is getting better. Government is backing sustainability. Soon enough we can bet there will be legal requirements stipulating some type of sustainable disposables for food and drink service businesses. Put it another way, if you build your business on non-sustainable products (i.e. made from finite resources, and not recyclable nor compostable), at some point (likely sooner rather than later) you’ll likely need to take the time to switch and re-calculate your running costs. Our packaging is also high-quality and great value so there’s no concern there! As is often said, packaging doesn’t need to cost the earth.
Overwhelmingly, the tide of consumer expectations is rising; today, it’s not just the impassioned fringe who are expecting their favourite shops and stores to make ethical and sustainable choices, it’s also everyday consumers – and the media. More likely than not, your customers will be expecting you to have a good answer to the million dollar question, “what are you doing for the planet?” As large coffee and restaurant chains make the shift to sustainable packaging, it’s worth thinking about whether you believe your customers will expect the same as theirs do.
In our opinion, it’s the right thing to do and as an ethos-driven company, we do as much good as we can. By choosing Sustain™ or Revive™, you are adding your voice to the charge for better. You are making a statement about your business, communicating to your customers that your business stands for better; more philosophically, you are the pebble that creates the larger ripple of behavioural change to save our planet. We’re working toward a world where packaging waste is no longer wasted, we hope you’ll join us.
The first thing you can do is encourage your customers to reduce and reuse, consider offering incentives for eating or drinking in. Then when you need to have the option for a takeaway service, that’s where our sustainable packaging comes in. Talk to us to help you determine if Sustain™ or Revive™ is right for your shop. Tell your customers that you use sustainable packaging and all the efforts you make for the planet (we’ll soon be releasing some new point-of-sale materials for you to show-off all the good work you’re doing, watch this space). From there, let’s keep in close dialogue. We are staying current with the change and ensuring our products are the most sustainable options out there. There is so much innovation happening in the marketplace and we want to be sure to offer suitable solutions to our customers, as they are available. So through buying our products not only are you buying better, but you are tapping into a resource that will keep you up-to-date on the situation.
One of our favourite questions. Just because it’s so cool!
Our Sustain range uses renewable resources like bagasse, palm leaf, PLA, and sustainable paper. Our Revive range is made with recycled materials like rPET or recycled paper.
For more detailed information, click here.
Ah yes, we saw that edible plate too – looks…delicious? Today there are so many innovations that flood our newsfeeds. Seems like every week there’s a new cup claiming it’s truly the best, fully recyclable, and unlike every other cup! We think innovation is fantastic and should never, ever be discouraged. We also recommend taking a closer look and asking some questions: recyclable where and how? What about food contamination, would it still be recyclable after you drank the coffee? What is it made from, is it a sustainable source? When it comes to edible packaging though, we just wonder how sanitary that is…where has that plate been!?
Plastics in the ocean persist. Yes, they break down, but just into smaller pieces of micro plastics that damage the eco-system and enter the food chain. For example, turtles typically eat jellyfish, but sometimes that floating plastic bag looks a lot like a jellyfish. And so they mistakenly eat the plastic, it gets stuck in their intestines, blocks their system, and the turtle will starve to death. The turtle’s body will rot away, but the bag will not. Instead, it is released back into the ocean and the vicious cycle begins again. It’s not just turtles; it’s birds, fish, dolphins, whales. Microplastics have also been found in plankton – thus entering the food chain from even the bottom rung. But it’s not just the ocean we need to consider. Litter on our land is causing microplastics to enter even the land based food chain. And of course litter on land often gets washed into the sea…and the cycle starts all over again.
Specialised Recycling refers to products and/pr material types which can be recycled but through specialised facilities. This is often due to the use of different materials combined to make a functional product, or from the presence of heavy contamination. An example of specialised recycling is the Simply Cups Scheme which offers a bespoke solution for the collection and recycling of paper cups.