What Does Biodegradable Mean?
Biodegradation happens when you place natural materials into the earth and they are decomposed by naturally occurring moisture, micro-organisms (such as bacteria and fungi) and mini beasts like snails, worms, slugs and more (1). Some materials biodegrade much quicker than others - wool for example takes around a year whereas a paper bag will break down in around five weeks.
How About Composting?
Like biodegradation, composting breaks down natural materials with the help of naturally occurring organisms. The composting environment is a natural one (no chemicals are used) but it is an orchestrated arrangement designed to host a much higher level of organisms.
So Biodegradable & Compostable Mean the Same Thing?
The processes are very similar. They both refer to the organic (natural) decomposition of natural materials - food waste, wool, cotton, paper, even plant-based plastics – down into their base components: proteins, fats and other nutrients. So neither process requires the addition of chemicals, they utilise natural processes only. However the composting environment is man-made , it requires regular turning and - in some cases - the addition of heat and moisture. Whereas biodegradation is Mother Nature running her course without adding anything into the mix or accelerating the process in any way. Composting is a much faster process too whereas biodegradation does not have a specific timeframe
What's The Difference Between Home and Industrial Composting?
The main difference is temperature with heat being purposely introduced into an industrial composting environment to speed up the process and help kill off harmful bacteria. This said, you can also set up a 'hot' compost at home (2) and even a 'cold' compost gives off a little heat from all the energy being produced by the organisms inside.
Can't We Simply Leave Natural Materials to Biodegrade in Landfill?
Natural materials struggle to biodegrade in landfill sites (3) because there is very little moisture or soil present which means that the micro-organisms required to actually break the materials down are very thin on (or under) the ground too. What’s more, because waste is so tightly compacted at landfill sites, this means that there is very little oxygen – oxygen needed by the micro-organisms to survive and work their magic.
How Can I Dispose of My Compostable Products?
The UK’s infrastructure for the industrial composting of packaging and food waste is very limited at present. Most facilities will not accept mixed waste due to the risk of contamination from non-compostable packaging products. Contaminated stock has no commercial value so waste service operators may invest resources into the recycling of stock only to be left with worthless landfill-bound waste. You can read more about this in our Latte Levy blog post. For this reason we recommend two alternative solutions for disposal:
Most of our products are home compostable so consumers are able to dispose of their own used packs and cups - along with kitchen and garden waste - in a domestic compost. Our packaging will break down naturally into a material that supports the growth of other plants.
You can find a list of all of our home compostable products here.
The Garbage Guzzler provides a cost-effective solution for caterers looking for a closed loop solution to dispose of the packaging and food waste generated within their place of work. This onsite unit uses aerobic digestion to reduce food and other organic waste by up to 90%. The end product may be used as either a soil improver or a biomass fuel.
You can find more information about the Garbage Guzzler here.
What About Ocean Waste?
An estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year (4), causing significant damage to eco systems far beyond those with which the plastic pollution is coming into direct, often catastrophic, contact. Our packaging is not designed for disposal in an ocean environment and we do not encourage or support littering under any circumstances. While our packaging is free from oil-based plastics, made instead from natural plant-based materials designed to break down without leaving any harmful traces, our seas do not offer the preferential conditions for doing so. Therefore our products can pose a threat to sea life in both a whole or partial state and should be disposed of in a composting environment wherever possible.
Why Use Compostable Plant Based Products?
For decades food packaging has been manufactured from petroleum based plastics that, unless recycled, remain in landfill for hundreds of years before eventually breaking down. Recycling plastic food packaging into new packaging and new products, requires specialist cleaning - not to mention all of the oil and oil-fueled process that go into making them in the first place. Each year the UK uses 275,000 tonnes of plastic (5), globally that figure reaches 5 million tonnes - almost half (2.4 million tonnes) of which comes from packaging (6). What's more, with just 50 years left before the world's oil reserves run out entirely, traditional plastics are simply not a long term solution.
For all of these reasons Planglow has developed eco-friendly packaging and labelling that will break down quickly in a composting environment without leaving any harmful traces.
We avoid oil-based plastics wherever possible using materials that are sustainably grown and managed instead. Even the laminate (which also forms the windows) lining our packaging is made from a ground-breaking plant-based material - a certified and fully compostable alternative. What's more, the off cuts created during the production of our packaging products are also recycled back into card or paper stock wherever possible and all of our suppliers are commissioned for their own environmental best practice too.
What About Recycling?
While most of the materials we use are suitable for recycling we have developed our ranges to be fully compostable as well. Unlike recyclable products - which are subject to the removal of plastic laminates, windows, grease and other food waste which can prove problematic - 100% plant based items are free of oil based plastics and will break down in a composting environment without leaving any harmful residues.
How Can I Dispose of Planglow’s Compostable Packaging?
Our packaging utilises oil-free compostable plant-based materials. Consumers can compost most of our products post-use, along with the usual garden and vegetable peelings waste, in a domestic compost environment. This includes.
•All film lined packaging (wedges, bloomer packs, salad packs, wrap packs, snack cubes)
If food to-go packaging waste is disposed on-site by the caterer, we have the ideal solution for you. We have partnered with PKL who supply the Garbage Guzzler, an onsite food waste digester which provides a one stop shop for your food and compostable packaging waste. Please see GarbageGuzzler.com for more info.
Where Can I Find Further Information?
You can click on any of the links in the text above or, alternatively, click the links below for further information.