In all the jargon of biodegradable, compostable, degradable plastic, what really should operators and consumers be looking out for?
Recycling, composting, sustainable, renewable, latte levy, 2.5 billion cups… all phrases that have hit the headlines recently, since the Environmental Audit Committee published their recommendations for Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups and Plastic Bottles, which suggested a 25p tax per cup.
As such, coffee shops, QSR, takeaway and other foodservice operators have seen a renewed interest from consumers around just how environmentally friendly their disposable or single use packaging actually is. Nisbets Customer Service Team has also recorded an increase in the number of operators wanting to discuss more environmentally friendly options for their own businesses.
Nisbets’ tips on what it all means:
Degradable Plastic – In simple terms this means the plastic fragments into lots of tiny pieces. Sounds good? Not really, as these fragments can get washed into the sea, get eaten by plankton and find their way into the food chain and even on to our plates.
Biodegradable – These types of products can break down naturally with microbes, warmth and moisture. Result? Sort of, but as it is hard to replicate the ideal conditions there is no time line as to how long this takes to happen
Compostable – These products are made entirely from plant materials. This means that they can biodegrade in under 12 weeks with microbes, heat and moisture and most importantly can be composted with food waste. This compost retains the nutrients vital for healthy soil.
Simon O’Mahony, marketing director at Nisbets says: “The dilemma is twofold; firstly, producing sustainable single-use packaging made from renewable sources, which means that the product does not deplete the natural environment during its manufacture. Trees used to make the paperboard for cups are a great example, trees are renewable, we can plant more, but the trees need to be part of a sustainably managed forest.
“A further and very topical example is the lining in takeaway cups, which are traditionally made from plastic, which is obviously not a renewable source. However, some manufacturers, such as Vegware, now use a plant based liner made from sugar cane, which is both renewable and recyclable. Sustainable packaging such as this can also be included in food waste. The second part of the environmental dilemma is what consumers do with their takeaway coffee cups or lunch trays. Getting users to put cups into a recycling bin to ensure that the disposables end up in a commercially operated recycling scheme is a big issue and one we need to tackle.”
Nisbets are a leading supplier of catering equipment to the industry and part of the range of disposable products is the Vegware collection of hot and cold cups, cutlery, food cartons and clamshells.
“Vegware catering disposable products are low carbon, made from renewable or recycled materials, and can be recycled along with food waste in a commercial composting facility,” says O’Mahony.
The Vegware range has been designed to ensure it provides the necessary protection for the food or drink it holds. The hot paper cups in kraft brown are double walled which allows for air to circulate between the gap, thus providing enhanced insulation whilst keeping the cup cool to the touch. As there is a range of cartons, clamshells and panini wraps it means that virtually any type of food can be securely contained to be eaten on the go.
The Vegware Company also offer some valuable additional benefits to a foodservice operator looking to communicate with customers about the environmental impact of their business. The Vegware Eco Audits allows a business to share its green credentials by measuring the environmental benefits of the products in terms of carbon and virgin material saved, along with potential landfill diversion.
The Vegware environmental team helps foodservice providers work with local waste collectors to close the loop and join the circular economy, to ensure compostable packaging and food waste is collected for composting by connecting a café or restaurant operator with a local commercial composting company.
For more information or to view the huge range of catering equipment available from Nisbets, please visit www.nisbets.co.uk. Alternatively, please call 0845 140 5555 or head to your nearest store*