Sustainable packaging, bio-plastics and products made from recycled materials
A circular economy is a system aimed at eliminating waste and promoting continual use of resources. It is a material shift away from society's current ‘single-use’ mentality. Circular systems involve reuse and recycling to create a ‘closed-loop’ system
A circular system reduces the amount of resources used, eliminates wastage and leakage, and reduces overall environmental pollution
There are a number of ways business can move towards a more circular approach:
• Removing unnecessary packaging and/or plastics
• Looking to reduce the amount of materials used in existing packaging formats or ‘downgauging’
• Moving to fully recyclable materials
• Introducing recycled or bio-based content into the current materials in order to move away from virgin petrochemical resins
• Moving into more interesting and innovative solutions like home compostable films and/or laminates where appropriate
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to conventional waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Composting is a form of organic recycling
In most cases compostable films cannot be recycled. Current recycling platforms generally only accept mineral based flexible and semi-rigid packaging. This packaging introduces ‘plant-based matter’ and this is a contaminant in most recycling facilities
Each landfill is different from one another so there is no uniform answer to this. However it is safe to say that in the majority of landfills, a compostable plastic may not break down properly or in the same timeframe as in a compost. Landfill waste is often anaerobic, and compostable packaging will only breakdown in the right conditions of heat, moisture, oxygen and microbial activity. Grounded’s compostable packaging has been developed to be composted, if sent to landfill it will likely start the process of decomposing slowly but it is hard to put a timeframe on that
Every home compost is different, and as such the answer to this is variable depending on the format and management of a home compost. Different composts will run at different levels of temperature, moisture and microbial activity. In order for a product to be certified home compostable it must disintegrate in 6 months and completely biodegrade in 12 months, at an average temperature of 30°C
Unlike home composts, commercial composts run at consistent and high temperatures (above 50 degrees celsius), as such compostable packaging will breakdown much quicker. They also allow for a wider range of increasingly rigid and touch plastics to breakdown. In order to be certified compostable it must disintegrate in 12 weeks and completely biodegrade in 6 months
There are a number of responses to this, but first and foremost is that compostable packaging for certain applications and formats, namely ‘flexibles’ and takeaway food & beverage packaging (coffee, fast food, etc) has emerged to be what we believe as the best solution to a challenging problem. That problem being that traditional recycling facilities and infrastructure struggles to deal with these items. As such, the ability to reduce traditional plastic usage in industries that use billions of items a year and to ultimately recycle that packaging back to organic matter is hugely positive.
It is something of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, without one the other wouldn’t develop. Waste management industries are at the end of chain in a consumption based economy, where innovation occurs at the start of the product life cycle, not at the end. Eventually it filters down to waste management infrastructure once it has become clear that there is an environmental and commercial imperative for that to occur. We are currently near the beginning of that cycle and we are already seeing significant growth in the commercial composting space, being driven by councils and local government as well as businesses.
When plastic PET bottles were introduced there was no recycling infrastructure to deal with them, only when they became an industry norm did recycling facilities and infrastructure start to develop. The same can be said for other materials such as aluminium cans.
Grounded Packaging wants to be leading by example in a space that requires rapid and wholesale change in order to address the scale of the problem that the widespread use of plastics has created
Again there is no right answer here as it depends on the type of packaging you are looking for. For rigid formats (like bottles) it is definitely preferable to use recyclable materials, ideally made from a single polymer.
Composting is not intended to replace conventional recycling, rather it is a way of dealing with plastics that are particularly hard to recycle due to form or contamination. About 50% of all domestic waste comprises organic material. Therefore, an increase in composting can reduce the volume of organic waste to landfill materially, while the compost produced can be used for agricultural and horticultural purposes
Bioplastics are a family of materials that are certified bio-based, certified compostable or both. The term bio-based refers to the fact that the feedstock comes from ‘biomass’ or natural materials that are not fossil fuels or petrochemicals. They are currently relatively niche in their application but there is significant research and development occurring globally, and as a result we are starting to see increasing possibilities for application across the packaging landscape
If certified compostable, items of packaging do not contaminate compost waste streams. These products are independently and completely tested (including all the components like inks and glues) and approved for acceptance in suitable commercial compost facilities. Proper certification gives the consumer, the business and the composter comfort to know that the resulting compost will be free of toxins and plastics
Some bioplastics are able to be recycled and some are not. There are certain types of bioplastics that are designed to directly replicate traditional polymers (primarily PE & LDPE presently) and are recyclable. There are other bioplastics that are designed to be composted, which are unable to be recycled