Single-use: we all know the challenges, but let’s explore a compostable solution.

Even with a major shift to reusables, some disposables will always be needed. When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports, and look at air infrastructure now. By choosing compostables, foodservice businesses can actively drive change in recycling. Here’s why businesses should consider going compostable.

What’s the point of disposables being compostable?

Compostable disposables are designed to be recycled in an industrial composting facility together with food waste. That means there’s no need for sorting, and the compostable cup, lid, burger box, knife and napkins can all go together without removing the ketchup and leftover chips. An extra bonus is that once food and disposables share one bin, other dry recycling bins are cleaner and easier to recycle. Compostability isn’t best for all situations. For example, we wouldn’t sell compostable water bottles, as PET plastic already has a developed recycling infrastructure. But for food-contaminated disposables, compostability is a sensible solution.

How do compostables solve food contamination?

Combining plastic and card in foodservice packaging creates massive recycling challenges, as highlighted by the recent coffee cup recycling debate. Food contamination is inevitable, so the result is incineration or landfill. For disposables destined for serving food, it makes sense to use materials that can be recycled ​together with food​. With compostable disposables, food isn’t contamination, it’s a vital ingredient in the composting process.

What’s wrong with ​recyclable​?

Everyone likes the word ‘recyclable’, but here’s some news which highlights the real challenges of recycling used ‘recyclable’ packaging.

The UK exports 70% of its paper and 66% of its plastic for recycling, with no idea if it actually gets recycled. China took a lot of exported UK recycling, but over the years discovered it isn’t good enough quality to recycle. Since January 2018, China has banned imports of household plastics, and only accepts cardboard and paper with less than 0.5% contamination. Other Asian countries are considering similar bans, to avoid becoming a dumping ground for unrecyclable waste. Food contamination is a major problem, and the British recycling industry worries that most UK card and
paper won’t meet China’s standards.

What’s the learning here? That in reality, card + plastic + food isn’t recyclable.

What’s the point if I can’t compost it?

The earth has finite resources. Disposables are used for such a short time, so it makes sense to switch to renewable materials, reserving conventional plastics for applications where they can’t be easily replaced. Lots of people enjoy using plant-based materials, knowing they are a simple way to reduce carbon and help their business go green.

But here’s the exciting part.​ When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports, and look at air infrastructure now. By choosing compostables, foodservice businesses can actively drive changes in US recycling. The more compostables there are in use, the more we can work with the waste sector to extend collections US-wide.