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Reuse vs Compostable vs Biodegradable – which is safest?
Disposables are back!
One of the first things to be hit in March was all the progress that had been made on reusable coffee cups, water bottles and returnable delivery packaging. Although there is still a legal duty for businesses to apply the waste hierarchy, in practice most places that serve food have moved to disposal or recovery solutions to try and reduce virus risk.
In June, Greenpeace and UPSTREAM co-ordinated a statement by experts from across the world saying that as long as sensible hygiene measures were taken, then the use of reusable containers were no more risky than disposables. Read the statement here
The Food Standards Agency has provided guidance saying that reusable containers are okay as long as they can be presented for filling without being touched by staff, something that should be possible for coffee and other drinks at least. Read the full guidance here
What about Compostable Packaging?
Many restaurants and cafes are now serving customers with disposable packaging. Many have chosen Vegware and other compostables to ‘do the right thing’ but it’s important to look at where those containers are ending up when making choices about packaging.
Vegware will only break down properly in an industrial composter, which is not the same as home composting. It will break down at home, but it will take longer than in an industrial composter.
Beware of packing that says it is biodegradable or oxi-biodegradable as everything eventually biodegrades even if it is over thousands of years and results in micro-plastics and oxi-degradable plastics need a special process to break down, so can’t go in with household mixed recycling.
There are local companies offering industrial composting and other options like anaerobic digestion for food waste. When making packaging choices, food and drink businesses should be aware that most of the compostable containers will end up in the energy from waste incinerator at Newhaven as they’ll go into household general waste. Plastic food containers on the other hand at least have the potential to be recycled. It’s far from easy to know what is best to do.
Working out what the most environmentally friendly option for food packaging is challenging. If you’d like help working out what would work best for you, we can help, with a few hours of consultancy looking at your packaging and where it goes once it’s been used. email@example.com
Let’s not Return to ‘The Old Normal’
#Buildbackbetter is becoming a thing. We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the way society works based on glimpses of a more sustainable world. We love this article from Inger Anderson, Executive Director of UNEP and Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific. Here’s the important bit for us to remember when under pressure to make decisions at work, and hopefully going for the more sustainable choice:
“The world before Covid-19 looks very attractive right now. In light of the disease, mass unemployment and social distancing, a return to pre-pandemic normality seems appealing. Yet we should remember what normal was.
Normal was obtaining 85% of our energy from fossil fuels and losing seven million people a year to air pollution
Normal was careering toward a global temperature rise of over 3.5 Celsius by the end of the century, with island nations facing obliteration.
Normal was one in eight species threatened with extinction, continued squeezing of wild spaces into smaller and smaller corners, and the rampant illegal trade in wildlife.
Normal contributed to causing this pandemic.”*
*Source of quotes: Bankok Post https://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1935440/lets-not-return-to-the-old-normal