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Monday 15th February 2021

Compostable packaging is made from materials that break down fully in under 12 weeks in the right conditions. As more consumers choose to pass on conventional plastics, more and more of our customers are looking for ways to dispose of compostables.

When we started looking at what a compostable service might look like we quickly concluded that things were not simple! Key to this was the strict acceptance criteria of composting sites – they need very low levels of contaminants in their input material. Compost must meet something called the PAS 100 standard. This requires it to contain less than 1/10th of one per cent of contaminant – understandable given that compost is spread on our farmland and gardens.

This means that the material we send for composting must be exceptionally clean. Through trials we know that there are several things that must be in place to make sure that we can get to the right level of quality. 

1. Each site that wants a composting service must be well set up so that the packaging used is consistently compostable (rather than a mixture of compostable and non-compostable items). 

2. The products used should be consistently labelled as compostable - clear on-product messaging and a well-known brand is hugely desirable.  

3. Sites must have a good level of staff engagement to promote the compostables waste stream

4. It is important that the compostable products used have been certified to the applicable UK standards.

We concluded that we needed an outside partner with expertise in compostable packaging. So last year we teamed up with the global specialist in plant-based compostable foodservice packaging, Vegware, to create a complete compostable foodservice disposables solution, from start-to-finish. Together, we provide customers who have chosen to swap to compostable products with a closed loop solution and guide them throughout the entire compostables journey.

Let’s see how it works.

3 stageprocess1 / Choose the right product2 / Set up your site correctly3 / Sustainable end-of-life solution

The Vegware Compostables Journey

Start – choosing the right products.

It is important when setting up a site, such as a canteen, to thoroughly audit all items that will end up in the waste stream and to work out what can be converted to compostables and anything items that might be problematic. Working with Vegware we can guide you through this process at your site.

– creating the perfect set up and engaging your staff.

Compostables are still relative newcomers compared to other materials but, as with every new waste stream, it’s not as easy as just buying a bin and leaving your staff to work out the rest… You must have the right set up, clear communications and correct placement of bins.

Ensuring your staff know what to do with compostables is essential. Vegware designs bespoke bin signage to clearly communicate your recycling streams and reduce contamination. 

Most commercial composting collections welcome food waste (ideal for foodservice!) because it can be a key ingredient in the composting process. It is important that other recyclables and general waste are never placed in the composting bin.

Training and engagement are all part of our Vegware Compostables service. The service offers the highest level of customer engagement from visual cues, training sessions and audits. These will all help to keep contamination at bay, and ensure the service reaches its full potential.

– End-of-life solution

It's very important to know how you and your customers will dispose of compostables after use. According to WRAP, In-vessel composting (IVC) is the most favourable waste management route for this type of packaging. Composting turns your food packaging waste into useful resources - compost is used in agriculture and landscaping to nourish soil and grow healthy plants. 

Compostable Vegware packaging is collected in wheeled bins from our customers and transported to our Materials Recovery Facility. Once there, they go through quality control, to remove any contamination and ensure quality organic material before we send for composting.

Our unique service got even better in 2021.

With funding from WRAP and Vegware, we commissioned a new sorting line at our facility to specifically sort Vegware Compostables – the first in the UK! The new sorting line will help us to scale up our successful service and provide the IVC facility with a consistently high- quality product, free from contamination. Read our blog post for more information about the new sorting line.

Once any remaining contaminants are removed, we send all Vegware Compostables to enVar, an IVC composting facility in Cambridgeshire. Their advanced systems mean they can produce compost in just 7 weeks - which is then used in agriculture locally. Closing the loop – and finishing the compostables journey.

Making the most of compostables

So, when it comes to #MakingTheMostOfCompostables we’re here, working with Vegware, to help with every step of the journey and to provide a viable route to disposal in London, Brighton and Sussex.  

We have created a simple and sustainable closed loop service, that ensures you can meet your sustainability goals and contribute to the circular economy. Contact us today to find out how.

Jessica Parrilla

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