Is compostable packaging the right choice for my business?
“There has been a huge amount of noise in the foodservice industry around use of compostable product. However, compostable packaging is not a silver bullet for sustainability. We’ve put together some key information to help you decide if it is the right solution for your site.”
What are compostable products?
Compostable foodservice products are manufactured to be resilient and practical in their intended use. In many cases they are lined with PLA as a liquid barrier to product the board or pulp element of the product from saturating.
What is PLA?
PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) is a bioplastic, a plastic made from plant materials, yet it is a plastic none the less, and will behave the same as any other plastic. Any compostable product either made form or featuring PLA will take the same amount of time to break down as any other plastic…possibly up to 500 years.
How are products deemed compostable?
For a product to be deemed compostable, it must be EN 13432 certified. The product is thoroughly tested to ensure that is composts fully within an In-Vessel composting facility before it can receive the EN13432 certification.
How do we dispose of compostable product?
Product that is compostable must go through an IV composting facility in order to break down. This means that product should not be added to domestic composters or compost piles and should only be taken to one of the national In-Vessel composting sites by your food waste collection service.
Should we switch to compostable products?
If you are planning to switch your product over to a compostable alternative you must consider the following:
· Do I have a compostable refuse collection service available, one that will take the product to an In-Vessel composting site?
· Are segregated bins available on site to receive and segregate compostable product and food waste?
· Is product taken off site for consumption elsewhere?
If you do not have access to a compostable refuse collection, there is no benefit to switching to compostable packaging, the product will go to landfill anyway. The product will not compost in landfill and will degrade similarly to plastics. PLA lined compostable product is not recyclable, so cannot be separated from waste for recycling.
What packaging should we use, compostable or recyclable?
While in theory it makes sense to move to a more sustainable material, it is very important that you make the move for the correct reasons and in the correct manner. Compostable products are not always the right choice, in many cases choosing materials that are recyclable will increase the probability of the product ending in the correct waste stream to ensure that the material is kept within the circular economy.