Recyclable, biodegradable & compostable packaging – what you need to know.

Transitioning to sustainable business practices is no small feat. Between the jargon (did you SEE the title of this blog post?) and plethora of metrics that claim to measure sustainability, it can feel nigh on impossible verifying whether the decisions you’re making actually have a positive impact on the environment.

To reassure our highly valued customers, we’ve pulled together our most frequently asked questions, and answers to give you the peace of mind that Green Choice is, just that.

What are recyclable, biodegradable and compostable packaging products?

Pretty much all takeaway products are recyclable, however only some products are biodegradable and compostable.

Recyclable means the packaging could be recycled if the material is clean and uncontaminated with food.

Biodegradable means that the material will breakdown (degrade) faster by undertaking specific biological processes. “Bio” means that living organisms will increase the degradation of a material. Biodegradable materials are not always compostable, as some biodegradable plastics are still petroleum-based plastics and take hundreds of years to degrade.

Compostable means that the material is made of organic matter, it will naturally biodegrade, and, in the right conditions, it can be converted into compost. The length of time it takes for an organic material to breakdown depends on the conditions in place (temperature, moisture, air, pressure) and the material. All plant-based products are biodegradable and breakdown can take a few weeks to a few months.

Green Choice products are biodegradable and compostable. They are plant-based products made from kraft cardboard, sugar cane, bamboo and plant starches, so they naturally break down and can become compost in the right conditions. The remaining matter is suitable for use as compost (fertiliser) and safe to become part of the soil system.

Why are compostable materials also classed as biodegradable?

Compostable products are made of organic matter, so they contain natural molecules that will naturally biodegrade. This is because bacterial microbes are attracted to natural molecules as a food source. When they do consume these molecules, the residue is still natural matter and therefore less damaging to our environment. A compostable material is naturally biodegradable and the residue does not harm the ecosystem (plant matter returning to the soils as plant matter).

Will Green Choice products be turned into compost?

This depends on the composting environment. All Green Choice products containing PLA comply with EN 13432 (09-2000) standards and AVI/OK 1 testing for "OK COMPOST" confirmation. So if the Local Council Authority manages the collection of organic waste and deposits it in an approved Commercial Composting Facility, then yes they will be converted into compost.

Our products are safe to be deposited in home-based composting systems but it is unlikely they will convert to compost as quickly as they would in a commercial system. How long it takes to convert into compost will be determined by the system's ability to create an effective environment (temperature, humidity, air movement and bacteria activity). 

How long will it take for Green Choice products to breakdown and become compost?

This depends on the composting environment. Thinner and softer products, like coffee cups and card containers will break down faster than denser and stiffer products, like cutlery, clear cups and coffee cup lids. Under the required breakdown conditions, an approved commercial composting facility, at least 90% of the card and soft PLA lined materials will disintegrate within 3 months and 90% of the denser materials will biodegrade within 6 months (after which 100% biodegradation occurs).

Can Green Choice products be placed in home composting systems?

Yes, but we do not recommend this. Products that contain PLA are not designed to compost in home systems. While they will not create any toxicity problems, it is unlikely that a home system will generate enough heat and air movement to break the products down into compost. Any products that do not contain PLA (like our cardboard containers, wooden cutlery, paper cups and paper straws) can be home-composted, and we would recommend you break these into smaller pieces first to aid decomposition.

Do compostable products actually decompose, even in a landfill?

How quickly they decompose and how much is decomposed depends on the composting environment. If our products are buried in an approved landfill, it is impossible to state how long it would take our products to decompose and eventually become converted into compost (if they would at all). If our products are buried close to other organic matter, and microbes exist in the right conditions, then they could biodegrade faster as the microbes are attracted to natural materials.

If the landfilled products do not convert into compost (which is essentially a fertiliser we want to use “above” the ground), they simply decompose into organic matter that will not harm our ecosystem (unlike fossil-fuel based products).

To find the right food packaging that works effectively for your business and is kind to the environment, browse our full product range here. Alternatively give us a call and chat to our friendly team who can help you to explore your options on 0800 864 725.

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