Single-use: we all know the challenges, but let’s explore a compostable solution. Even with a major shift to reusables, some disposables will always be needed. When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports, and look at air infrastructure now. By choosing compostables, foodservice businesses can actively drive change in UK recycling. Here’s why businesses should consider going compostable.
Compostability isn’t best for all situations. For example, Vegware wouldn’t make compostable water bottles, as PET plastic already has a developed recycling infrastructure. But for food-contaminated disposables, compostability is a sensible solution.
• COMPOSTING REGIONS. Many waste collectors around the UK have an existing collection route taking used Vegware for commercial composting with food waste.
• VEGWARE’S CLOSE THE LOOP. To help more clients access commercial composting, Vegware has launched its own collections. This service is already in Scotland, Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester, with further expansion in development.
• ON-SITE COMPOSTERS. If your business has outdoor space, a use for compost, and staff to manage it, investing in an on-site composter can be an exciting and sustainable solution.
The UK exports 70% of its paper and 66% of its plastic for recycling, with no idea if it actually gets recycled. China took a lot of exported UK recycling, but over the years discovered it isn’t good enough quality to recycle. Since January 2018, China has banned imports of household plastics, and only accepts cardboard and paper with less than 0.5% contamination. Other Asian countries are considering similar bans, to avoid becoming a dumping ground for unrecyclable waste. Food contamination is a major problem, and the British recycling industry worries that most UK card and paper won’t meet China’s standards.
What’s the learning here? That in reality, card + plastic + food isn’t recyclable.
Reclaimed sugarcane fibre is another practical material we use for our clamshells, plates and bowls. Known as bagasse, it performs really well, keeping heat in but not trapping condensation. Plus, it’s renewable, a reclaimed by-product of the sugar industry.
But here’s the exciting part. When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports, and look at air infrastructure now. By choosing compostables, foodservice businesses can actively drive changes in UK recycling. The more compostables there are in use, the more we can work with the waste sector to extend collections UK-wide.
Schemes collecting any on-the-go recycling (including plastic-lined cups), depend on consumers finding the right bin, and not accidentally contaminating it with the wrong materials. The right ‘binfrastructure’ is needed, but those bins need to be used correctly. That means clear messaging and consumer education is vital to make sure what is collected is good enough to be recycled.
The thing is, exactly the same challenges (binfrastructure + behaviour) apply to all recycling – whether that’s plastic-lined cups, plastic bottles, or compostable disposables. Compostables are not the enemy. We’re fighting the same challenges, with the same goal: better recycling.
There’s a major opportunity for change in UK recycling right now.
Compostables are the only practical solution for food-contaminated disposables. The more businesses that go compostable, the faster we can achieve this much-needed change.