How Compostable is Compostable Packaging: Oct 2019

How Compostable Is Compostable Packaging; That Is The Question?

When I opened The Vegetable Diva I wanted to offer Take-away food which was affordably priced but did not effect the environment, I ummed and ahhed as to whether we should use take-away boxes and then offer discounts to customers who brought their own container.  A friend suggested  “Sonya go cold turkey start as you mean to go on” . This led me to think why not? at least I don’t need to wean people off.

A lot of our convenience culture and dependency on disposable packaging has happened due to its easy availability and in-availability of alternative options. We are trying to break habits by encouraging people to bring their own containers so that is one less piece of rubbish in the landfill.

 

  • Which brings us to the next question?
  • Surely it is ok if we use compostable packaging?
  • it will decompose won’t it?

Lets look at the facts:

 

Fossil-based or bio-based materials can be used to produce plastic which either biodegrade or compost. The diagram below shows the different types of plastics and bio plastics currently available in the UK.

 

Image taken from: WRAP | Understanding plastic packaging

Different plastics and bio plastics used in packaging

How are compostable bioplastics composted?

Currently biodegradable plastics cannot be recycled in the same way as non-biodegradable plastic.

It must be separated from non bio-degradable plastic streams and dealt with separately. If not, it causes problems during the recycling process.  The route for treatment and disposal must not compromise other existing recycling routes.

It may come as a surprise that , compostable plastic takeaway packaging was originally designed  to tackle food waste being contaminated with plastic packaging not to be the solution to plastic pollution and is not expected to break down in a marine environment.*2

Compostable materials are materials that break down at composting conditions. Industrial composting conditions require elevated temperature (55-60°C) combined with a high relative humidity and the presence of oxygen, plant-based packaging , including those made from polylactic acid (PLA) by companies such as Vegware, these conditions are rarely met in everyday biodegradation conditions: in soil, surface water and marine water.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires landfills to block out air, moisture and sunlight – crucial elements for proper biodegradation

 

Result:

A large percentage of bio plastics end up in the landfill where they do not degrade.Feb 2019). “That means that if your bag is like most “biodegradable” bags, it will just sit there, unable to decompose.”

In lay terms unless the biodegradable container which housed your take-away meal goes into a separate waste bin which is heading for an Industrial composting plant it is heading for the landfill where it will not decompose.

Compostable packaging examples
Credit: citytosea.org.uk

So how do you compost biodegradable bioplastic packaging

The best way to dispose of compostable plastics is to send them to an industrial or commercial composting facility where they’ll break down with the right mixture of heat, microbes, and time. Vegware is promising customers a “closed-loop” contract, where it supplies its products to businesses and then disposes of them. This  arrangement only covers 38% of UK postcodes.

BBC Wales News  Feb 2019

Harriet Giles beautifully sums up why we have decided not to use any packaging and opted for a refill policy with our ‘take-away’ menu.

“Bioplastics might sound good, but in reality, they are basically the same as plastic and don’t decompose in the way most people think they do. They often just end up as rubbish littering our streets, oceans and killing marine life. Bioplastics are a ‘false solution’ as they are single-use and there are extremely limited options to compost them. Ultimately, due the nature of when we tend to use bioplastics – as takeaway food containers and packaging – they end up in the bin and consequently as rubbish needing to be burned or landfilled.”
H.Giles citytosea.org.uk

 

Conclusion.

Hence we have come to the conclusion that the best solution is behaviour change a tiny shift when you leave your home take a box, leave it at work if you are office based and ask your take-away owner to fill this instead of using their take-away boxes. Currently over 650 take-away boxes are used by just one small take-away businesses in the UK. We feel that this is unsustainable and too great a price to pay for convenience, staff have been replaced by fridges containing pre-packed food and dishwashers and kitchen porters replaced by piles of un-compostable compostable packaging.

We the public can help push this movement by asking owners for the option they respond to consumer demand, I understand this is not always easy and you can get some  puzzling looks but small steps make big changes and the money they save on waste disposal and buying the packaging may mean a reduction in prices who knows, but one thing is for sure the planet will thank us for it.

 

References:

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Understanding%20plastic%20packaging%20FINAL.pdf

Press release: Most bioplastics are “a load of rubbish”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-47238220

 

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi


The Chef's Manifesto - May 2019

As part of the Bristol food connections week I was invited to attend the Chefs Manifesto at Poco’s in Stokes Croft. It was fantastic to sit in For those who are unfamiliar with the movment the chefs Manifesto is a based on 8 thematic areas

8 THEMATIC AREAS:

  1.          Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

  2.          Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

  3.          Investment in livelihoods

  4.          Reduce waste and value natural resources

  5.          Celebration of local, seasonal food

  6.          A focus on plant-based ingredients

  7.          Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking

  8.         Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all

 

The Vegetable Diva was largely created by my own ethics and nutritional beliefs and it was encouraging to meet a group of like-minded souls.

We were very keen to be a part of this manifesto, so I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how we fit into this framework?

 

Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

We aim to harvest the majority of our ingredients from our plot ‘The Diva No Dig Plot’ We use no dig farming methods to encourage micro bio diversity in the soil and don’t use any chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. No we are not certified organic simply because we do not want the agrivation of the paperwork and being charged huge amounts of money to have our soil tested, we would rather invest the money in good quality mulch and seeds, but I can assure you that we farm according to organic principles.we have planted mixed hedgerows to encourage wildlife and birds and Black Mountain Hill sheep mow our grass. We have planted 100’s of trees in our 2 acre orchard which contain hives to pollenate our orchard. This prevents soil erosion and flooding in the local area, it is a mixed orchard so several types of British apples are kept in production as a result of this and you enjoy the taste in our wonderful apple juice which is on tap in our deli.

Elderflowers ready for making cordial at the Vegetable Diva
Vegetables growing in the plot
Meet our resident carbon free lawn mowers
Our 'No Dig Diva Plot'.
The Diva Orchard at sunset
Charlie Armour our dedicated manager and horticulturalist.
Les Davies, orchard manager and Mendip Tree Warden.

Investment in livelihoods

We employ local workers and invest in our staff by sending them on training courses so that their skills are kept up to date. We provide sociable working hours rare in the catering industry. and gender equality in the work place. we have women and men in senior roles and there is no gender pay differences. We have supported small holders by providing grazing land and employed local labour on our no dig diva plot.

Reduce waste and value natural resources

Our deli is zero waste, its great it is a constant creative challenge,  our menu changes to accommodate fluctuations in the seasons and we are flexible and cook with what is in natural abundance and in season. We are a package free take away and use lids on storage tubs to avoid cling film, we wash all our cloths, no disposables.

Our polytunnel is not heated to reduce energy and the deli has been insulated and has no air-conditioning just ceiling fans which circulate heat and cool down. Our energy suppliers are bulb who use 100% renewable sources of energy. We don’t use palm oil in any of our products or stock processed products with these ingredients.

We are a vegetarian café so 100% plant friendly and we use lesser known vegetables in our dishes to ensure the public are exposed to a wide variety of vegetables.

Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all

Despite the fact that our food is made with love and care and is bespokely made, we still ensure that our prices are kept at a point which makes our food accessible for all. Our mission is to normalise the healthy eating movement and ensure that it was accessible to all members of the public regardless of social economic class. A nutritious meal can be obtained at our cafe for £6.00.

Field to Tiffin; Produce ripe for picking.
From Field to Tiffin; Some of the fruits of our labour from the field.
From Field to Tiffin; Preparing the seasonal greens for take away.
From field to tiffin
From Field to Tiffin; Kandala curry served with yoghur rice and seasonal greens.
From Field to Tiffin; Packaging our food in a non disposable tin.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking.

Prior to opening The Vegetable Diva, I have instigated and run several community public health programmes a couple of examples include;

Farmlink education

I set up the community teaching kitchen for Farm-link Education and taught groups of 15 children from schools in North Somerset how to cook and prepare nutritious meals from scratch. I ensured they were quick and economical to prepare and also gave lessons on the benefits of macro and micro nutrients, seasonal produce and the benefits of eating a balance diets and how they could make this achievable.

Cook and Eat Lunch Club

To combat malnutrition and isolation in the elderly community leaving in sheltered accommodation I set up and ran the ‘Cook and Eat Lunch Club’ rather than simply provide a meal we cooked together, tasks were differentiated so that it was all inclusive and it gave an opportunity for the community to get together, eat nutritious food and increase their confidence.

I feel we have it covered, but there is always room for improvement and learning and collaborating from other people experience and ideas. We will continue to strive to maintain our pledge to this manifesto and encourage and support other businesses who choose to follow suit.

Getting hands on and preparing the food for the joint meal later
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Children learning cooking skills in the teaching kitchen which I set up.
Creating the kitchen with Natascha Clutterbuck's artwork.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi