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Sustainable Packaging 2019

Full circle recycling – why businesses must ‘go compostable’

Sam Walker

Business Development Manager, BioPac UK Ltd

If there were a solution to plastic waste at festivals, in coffee chains and the fast food industry available now, we’d all like to hear it wouldn’t we? Well, there is. Compostable packaging is set to provide business with an alternative to shipping our plastic off to sit in landfill.

Plastic recycling is one of the most important environmental issues facing our planet, representing a complex problem with very few simple solutions.

In the UK, we ‘recover’ a significant percentage of our plastic waste. This, unfortunately however, is very different to ‘recycling’ that plastic.

We can’t simply get rid of it from our supermarkets, where its use in protecting perishable food is vital in terms of minimalsing food waste.

But, what about replacing plastics with natural, compostable food and drink packaging? Compostable alternatives to plastic-lined coffee cups, for example, do exist – affording events and businesses the chance to cut down their plastic waste and consolidate their waste streams into one.

Sam Walker from Biopac UK believes moving to fully compostable packaging could make life easier for these industries.

Helping form a circular economy

Products made from materials such as corn starch and bagasse (a bi-product of refining sugar) are already available and can be composted with food and drink waste. Currently, food and drink waste contaminate the plastic recycling process.

“It’s a big benefit for event managers, having one waste bin for all products. To contrast that with current high street recycling schemes, where consumers have to pour waste coffee into one bag, put the cups into another bag and lids into yet another bag. “If the cup and lid are compostable, all of it goes in with any other kind of compostable packaging along with food waste – which only helps compost the products.”

Current schemes invariably cater for products made from one material. Sandwich packs, for instance, face the same issues for recycling as cups do, because they are often a combination of plastic, card, paper and film. Are we going to come up with a scheme for every type of packaging? Why not just switch to compostables that won’t necessarily cost more than current solutions and are far eco-friendlier than not acting at all.

They help form a circular economy. Crops are grown and the bi-products are used to make compostable packaging. When broken down with food waste, the compost produced is then re-used to grow more crops. 

Compostables are the future

Walker, who speaks with real passion about the issue, feels that the time for excuses has passed. “The argument against compostables is that the infrastructure to compost them isn’t there. But this is rapidly increasing each year and we can ensure that 100% of collected waste gets composted.  The same cannot be said for recycling where we ship waste abroad for processing.  We have a choice between 2 products, why do we continue to use the one that’s more harmful to the environment?”

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