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Just about 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 not contaminated with greases and oils, and the local council/waste management contractor has processes in place to actually recycle the material. We recycle very few plastics in NZ and it is now becoming more difficult to sell our recovered plastics overseas, with importers now placing huge reductions on the amount of plastics allowed in their processing lines.
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. Making petroleum-based plastics biodegradable does not make them a green option, it simply speeds up the decay and the plastic molecules just become smaller (and more dangerous) sooner than later. Petroleum-based plastics should be recycled and not designed to biodegrade.
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. This is all very difficult to accurately ascertain as the conditions vary so much. All plant-based products are biodegradable and breakdown can take a few weeks to a few months.
Green Choice products are biodegradable and compostable. This is because they are plant-based (kraft cardboard, sugar cane, bamboo and plant starches) so they naturally break down and can become compost in the right conditions. This means that the remaining matter is suitable for use as compost (fertiliser) and safe to become part of the soil system.
Yes. Everything degrades (or decomposes) over time, but some things take longer than others. This depends on the base material and the conditions in which the thing is decaying in (temperature, humidity, air and time). A general rule of thumb is that if something is a natural product it breaks down naturally (mother nature at work), whereas a man-made product can take forever to decompose (think about concrete when you think about petroleum-based plastics). Natural degradation is a better option.
Biodegradation means that the molecules (that form the material) are created and bound in such a way that natural "living" micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi and algae) will consume and breakdown the molecules. This releases the bonding of the molecules and thereby speed up the degradation. There are chemical and physical degradation processes taking place, both accelerated due to the involvement of living organisms (hence the term biodegradation).
Yes, it's important to keep PLA products out of intense sunlight areas of warehouses (in or out of the packaging cartons). PLA has a relatively low glass transition temperature (typically between 44 and 63 °C). This is the temperature at which the molecular bonding starts to “relax” – don’t panic… it’s not melting, just relaxing. If the temperature increases it will move to a melting phase. PLA’s melt temperature is between 157 - 170 °C. This varies dependent on the thickness of the material and if it is bonded on cardboard (like coffee cups).
Note that CPLA is used to make our coffee lids and cutlery (CPLA is a harder and more brittle version of PLA). This has a higher melt temperature of 200 °C.
The most at risk PLA products are clear cups, clear lids and straws as these are thin walled PLA products. These are designed for serving cold drinks and are safe for use (all have SGS food certs). However, they are at most risk if stored in high temperature environments. Even things like a hot car in the summer could cause parts to soften and deform.
PLA is classified as a “thermoplastic”. Thermoplastic materials become liquid at their melting point (150-160 degrees Celsius in the case of PLA) which allows them to be easily injection molded (lids/cups/cutlery) or sprayed (container lining). In its solid form, PLA is not toxic. As PLA is biodegradable, it is often used in food handling and medical implants that biodegrade within the body over time.
Using PLA eliminates the need to use non-renewable and unsustainable petroleum resources. Like most plastics, during the manufacturing process it has the potential to be toxic if inhaled and/or absorbed into the skin or eyes as a vapor or liquid. PLA is fairly unsuitable for very high temperature applications (such as reheating in a microwave). It has been approved for use in manufacture of disposable products as the temperatures of any hot drinks or food have to be safe for humans, to avoid scalding.
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. At this stage, New Zealand currently has far more landfills than composting facilities. More pressure on Local Authorities and Central Government is needed to establish a policy to address this imbalance.
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). To better understand the NZ requirements for composting facilities, please refer to the Compost NZ Consent Guide produced by the Waste Management Institute of New Zealand.
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). PLA (Polylactic Acid) is made from corn starch or sugar cane (biomass products), and these natural molecules will biodegrade.
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. Our products have passed EN 13432 standards and achieved OK to Compost verification. 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). The resulting compost will not be adversely affected by any additional materials (such as food dyes or paper etc.) and safe plant germination is assured.
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. 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. 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.
This depends on the landfill conditions. Effective landfill management requires the waste to be stored as solids or else the landfill will collapse, so the correct sealing of landfills is key to this. Keeping moisture, air and microbes out of a landfill is a challenge. If air is present, and the temperatures and moisture levels are right, natural waste in a landfill is likely to be consumed by microbes, and this includes PLA.
As part of this natural consumption process, methane will be produced and this will increase if more air is added. This is normal, it is the decomposition process at work. The rate at which this happens depends on the conditions within the landfill and how well conditions are controlled. The number and activity levels of these microbes are affected by these conditions.
Scientific tests have concluded that extremely low levels of methane are generated during the digestion of PLA molecules. Methane gas is being captured by some landfills as an energy source. Methane released to the atmosphere adds to the natural generation of methane, as we need methane in our atmosphere to form clouds and produce water. However, an excess of methane is not good as this raises global temperatures. The majority of this excess in NZ comes from increased agricultural farming.
PLA is an abbreviation of Polylactic Acid. It is different than most thermoplastic polymers in that it is derived from renewable plant-based resources like corn starch or sugar cane. CPLA is Crystalised PLA, and has simply been made to be more rigid so that PLA can be used for more purposes (like a coffee cup lid).
Petroleum-based plastics, by contrast, are derived from the distillation and polymerization of nonrenewable mineral oil reserves. Polylactic Acid is biodegradable and has characteristics similar to polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). It can be produced from existing manufacturing equipment (those designed and originally used for petrochemical industry plastics). This makes it relatively cost-efficient to produce.
Accordingly, PLA has the second largest production volume of any bioplastic (the most common typically cited as thermoplastic starch). Plastics that are derived from organic matter (e.g. PLA) are known as “bioplastics.”
How quickly they decompose and how much is decomposed depends on the composting environment. If our products are buried in an approved Landfill, which is the most likely scenario given that NZ only has 11 Commercial Composting Facilities currently operating, 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). There is no way of knowing in advance what sort of composting conditions may exist in a landfill. 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 our products are buried alongside fossil-fuel based plastics it would take much longer as the microbes are not attracted to unnatural 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).
Our products are plant-based (organic matter), so it may help to consider what happens to an apple when left to decompose. Left indoors with no control (changes to temperature, humidity, air movement and the likely existence of bacteria), the apple may only stay edible for up to a week. It will start to rot and will eventually decompose, especially if temperatures increase. Left outdoors with no control (exposure to the elements, bacteria and animals), the apple may not last a couple of days. It will decompose and likely be completely eaten till nothing is left. If the apple is binned and sent to a landfill, the apple will eventually decompose into food matter. It may not become suitable as compost because the right temperature, humidity, air movement and bacteria conditions may not exist.
Nevertheless, it remains as decomposed food matter and will not harm our ecosystem. This is what happens to Green Choice products in a landfill. If the apple was placed in a controlled composting bin (higher controlled temperature, higher controlled humidity, higher controlled air movement and high levels of bacteria), then the apple will decompose and convert into compost (the residue has transformed into a material that is suitable for adding to the soil and plant nourishment). This is what happens to Green Choice products in a commercial composting facility.
Yes, our products can be trusted, they have earned the required levels of food safety certification. All products have passed SGS EU 10/2011 and EN 1186-1/9/14:2002 food safety testing methodology (tolerance to high temperatures and fatty substances, and absence of heavy metals). PLA is fairly unsuitable for very high temperature applications. It has been approved for use in manufacture of disposable products as the temperatures of any hot drinks or food have to be safe for humans in order to avoid scalding. We would not recommend placing hot liquids in clear PLA cups, as these are designed for cold drinks, and we would not recommend using any PLA-lined Green Choice products in a microwave as the high temperatures may separate the PLA lining. All our products are free of petroleum-based plastics and all inks are food-dyes.
No. Petroleum-based plastics should not be classed as Bioplastic. If a petroleum-based plastic molecule is modified to biodegrade then this adds environmental problems. The material breaks down faster, but the separated molecules are still petroleum-based plastics and they are now much smaller. The smaller these molecules become the more harmful they become. This is because they can now be more easily ingested by animals and humans. Adding to this problem is the fact that petroleum is not renewable, there are far more important uses for this valuable resource. Recycling these types of plastics makes sense, but making them biodegradable is a bad idea.
We class all "other" plastics as class 7. This class includes a number of petroleum-based plastics that are not considered mainstream, and they are bundled into this one recycling class. The problem with placing PLA in this mix is that PLA is not petroleum-based and recyclers do not want it bundled. Yet PLA is still seen as an "other" plastic so it is classed as 7. Using 00 is essentially stating that PLA is not petroleum-based so a separate class should be used. In some parts of the world PLA is used for making many different products that will not be contaminated with food waste(3D printers for example use PLA). In these instances, PLA can be, and sometimes is, recycled and not turned into compost.
Dr. Patrick Gruber is credited with inventing a commercially viable process for producing polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable plastic made from corn. He is named co-inventor on 48 United States patents related to the production of PLA. He and his wife Sally, also a chemist, first created plastic from corn kernels by brewing a batch of PLA on their kitchen stove without using any additives or solvents. PLA was first identified in the 1920's, when Wallace Carothers, the inventor of nylon, worked on it at DuPont. Chemical giants had spent decades trying to find a renewable and environmentally safe raw material to make into plastic. Until Gruber’s discovery in 1989, no one had discovered out how to make PLA from plant starches with the right properties and inexpensively enough for large scale production.
All Green Choice products containing PLA comply with EN 13432 (09-2000) standards and AVI/OK 1 testing for "OK COMPOST" confirmation.
Our PLA clear cups, PLA straws, PLA paper cups and PLA food boxes are 100% PLA, no PBAT modifier is added.
There is PBAT modifier added for PLA cutlery, Spoon, Fork, Knife to add strength to these specific products.
A greater mass and density of PLA used to form a product leads to longer composting timeframes and more rigid composting conditions are required.
This revealing video from earthFIX shows the extent of the damage being caused to our ecosystem by fossil-fuel based microplastic beads: https://youtu.be/6-1aMka3D2I
Some are recycled, but most are sent to landfills. This is because used containers are nearly always contaminated with oil and grease from leftover food and drinks. With our busy lifestyles, and our consumption of convenience food and drink, we must all take responsibility for disposing of used packaging correctly. We encourage people to check their local council recycling guidelines, as not all recyclable plastics are recycled in local centres (contamination and costs can be barriers). Everyone must take ownership of waste disposal and we promote the correct recycling of used packaging were possible. It is important that we divert as many recyclable plastics away from landfills as we can. You can view and download the recycling information guide from the Emperor website.
UniPak requires all manufacturers to undertake a rigorous examination of their business practices. Our Green Choice manufacturers have each supplied detailed information based on the UniPak online Supplier Assessment Form and they each meet our required standards. These standards align with current sustainable business practices, such as efficient energy and water use, waste and emissions management, raw material types, production quality controls, packaging types, human resource management, and sustainable practice ethics.
New Zealand currently has the following Commercial Composting Sites, and local waste/recycling/composting collectors are responsible for arranging collection and drop-off services to the sites.
Home Grown Waiheke Trust, Auckland
Envirowaste Hampton Downs, Mercer, Waikato
Envirofert, Tuakau, Waikato
Central NI (coast to coast):
Revital/Remediation (NZ), Cambridge, Waipa
Revital/Remediation (NZ), Mt Maunganui, Tauranga City
Revital/Remediation (NZ), Uruti, New Plymouth BioRich, Hastings
KaiCycle/WorkerBe Oasis, Wellington City
Capital Compost/Southern Landfill, Wellington City (facility does not process PLA or PLA lined materials)
Motueka Community Gardens, Tasman
Innovative Waste Kaikoura, Kaikoura
Reference: The Packaging Forum Composting Facilities Report 2017
Disposable products refers to things that are designed for one-off use and can be discarded after use. Disposable food and drinks containers, cutlery and serviettes are basically the same things you would need at a seated restaurant, except the consumption is done remotely and there is no return of these items for washing and storing. With the busy lifestyles experienced by most it is unlikely the demand for disposables will ever decline. Hygiene and cleanliness is less of a worry as there are fewer concerns about collecting, washing or cleaning reusable items.
Our coordinated design is evident in our product range, this provides an opportunity to create a coordinated identity for food service presentation. Combine our branded products with matching apparel (we will supply our logos for you to overprint your t-shirts) and get a great fresh brand image for your operations.
Unipak has been supplying disposable cups since 2004 and know that cafes have different preferences for wall thicknesses, textures and sizes. Single wall cups are very common, however they can transfer heat quicker so insulating sleeves are a good idea. Double wall cups help reduce the transfer of heat, and ripple styles do this and also add texture to help grip the cups. You can view the Green Choice drinkware range here.
The G and C are combined to form a common shape, we chose green and blue to reflect the earth and our environment. We believe Kiwis want to choose green products whenever they can, hence the words "Green Choice". The brand name and the logo design are both trademarked, they cannot be reproduced without our permission.