Executive Director, FPA
Companies are keen to use more sustainable solutions for packaging, but it is essential they do the right thing by their customers and the environment by finding the right solution.
It’s understandable that operators want to ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to packaging and their customers are eager to purchase products in packaging that they think are better for the environment. But options claiming to be plastic-free or biodegradable can be misleading and compostable packaging only works if the necessary end-of-life options are followed through.
Compostables work best in closed loop environments
Compostables are excellent if the used packaging is collected and goes to commercial composting facilities. Venues such as sports stadia, leisure parks and university campuses are the types of location that are ideal for compostables.
However, if customers are walking out of the premises and putting the item in the bin/recycling bin or even littering them, composting doesn’t happen. Composting of packaging only takes place in industrial composting facilities with the right temperature and moisture levels. Most local authorities do not want compostable packaging as part of their kerbside recycling collection schemes and do not welcome them in food waste but should do.
Composting of packaging only takes place in industrial composting facilities with the right temperature and moisture levels.
Does biodegradable packaging even exist?
Packaging should not be described as biodegradable as, unlike for compostables, there is no certification to prove biodegradability takes place in a required timescale and the conditions for it to do so. The name implies the items can be discarded and, because they are thought to breakdown in the environment, can encourage litter.
The FPA calls for the word biodegradable to be banned from use on packaging and urges operators not to be tempted to use the word biodegradable – it simply doesn’t exist without being part of anther process such as industrial composting.
Be wary of plastic free claims
Some packaging is described as ‘plastic free’ and again we advise caution as frequently the claim is made for the materials rather than the finished packaging, which undergoes further processing. Many so-called water-based coatings still use plastic such as acrylic, as without it the coating would fail to adhere.
New greenwash guidelines
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) is introducing new guidelines covering all environmental claims including packaging. Businesses should be alert to the risks of huge fines and the increased scrutiny such practices are likely to receive from regulators and consumers.
We believe those who exploit their customers’ desire to be seen to be doing the right thing with packaging, which in all reality will make no difference but cost more, should be held to account.