Compostable packaging is packaging which is manufactured from renewable plant-based materials, which has been certified to compost within an industrial composting process, along with food and garden waste.
What Happens to Packaging Waste if it is Binned:
At NaturePac we believe the best solution to the problem with litter entering our oceans is to recycle as much as possible. This reduces the need for raw materials, reduces landfill, and reduces littering. There are three major issues which reduces the amount of packaging which gets recycled:
- Not enough recycling plants and a lack of cohesion throughout the UK recycling industry. It seems that every council has a difference approach to recycling, and therefore it isn’t clear which items will get recycled.
- Composite products, such as standard coffee cups which are constructed from paper and a PE Liner. These products are extremely difficult to recycle as the two different materials are bonded together and the process of separation is very expensive and uses a lot of energy. As noted in a recent BBC article, less than 1% of the coffee cups within the UK are recycled.
- Food contamination. In order to help the recycling process, the packaging needs to be cleaned out thoroughly, otherwise the food matter can contaminate the recycled product.
The packaging which doesn’t make it into the recycling process is mostly dealt with in two ways. It should go through a process called ‘MBT’ which reduces the volume by approx. 70%. The material which is left at the end of the process is either put into landfill or incinerated to create power. This is subject to your council. If it is sent to landfill, all the standard plastic from your packaging will take hundreds of years to decompose and can leave harmful residue.
Benefits of Compostable Packaging:
NaturePac Compostable packaging can help with the above problems. The idea behind compostable packaging is for it to be disposed of with the food waste so it can be composted into fertiliser/soil improvers for use with future crops. In order for compostable packaging to compost, it ideally needs to go through a commercial composting process, usually for a minimum of 12 weeks.
As with all new technologies, not everywhere has the capabilities for an industrial composting process. If this is the case, the packaging which is made using PLA will be treated in the same way as most of the standard packaging.
The benefit of the compostable packaging in this case is, if it does go to landfill, it will compost down quicker than standard packaging, and it won’t leave behind harmful residue.
Once the UK has increased the development of the infrastructure needed for compostable packaging so it can be widely disposed of with food waste, this will be an ideal solution. The consumer will not need to worry about food contaminating the recycling process, and it will be clear where to dispose of this packaging.
The infrastructure is improving all the time, with Hackney Council being the most recent to confirm they will accept compostable packaging along with the food waste.
Benefits of Paper Recyclable Packaging:
The biggest benefit of this type of packaging is paper is widely recyclable with most councils throughout the UK providing a recycling process. It is normally very clear which bin you can dispose of paper recyclable packaging, however, because this packaging is made from paper, it can be disposed of within food waste, or if it ends up in landfill, it will also break down.
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