Landmark event composts in Cardiff

For more than four decades, the Volvo Ocean Race has tested teamwork to the limit, and provided a human adventure like no other. The 2017-18 edition proved no different. Teams crossed four oceans and travelled 45,000 nautical miles around the world, touching six continents and 12 landmark Host Cities.

This included Cardiff – Wales’ sporting capital, and now, a historical sustainable stopover for the world-renowned event.

Vegware packaging at the Cardiff Race Village

There is heightened awareness around the limitations of plastic recycling and the growing problem of plastic pollution at a global level. The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race brought sustainability to the forefront, mandating a plastic-free environment across all Host Cities.

Cardiff Harbour Authority and the City of Cardiff Council embraced this sustainable mission for the Cardiff Race Village. The team immediately researched all the aspects of hosting a plastic-free event. The added challenge? A 14-day stopover, open to the public, with 180,000 attendees.

The Solution: Vegware’s fibre-based products and beyond packaging environmental support. We made education a top priority,  training the event team and working with them to inform the attendees.

Read more about the sustainable solution and result, hearing from Cardiff Harbour Authority’s Environmental Officer and Volvo Ocean Race’s Sustainability Programme Manager.

Defra Resources and waste strategy announcement

You may have seen us on Sky News this morning (we’ll post a clip to the video when it’s available)!

Directors Joe and Lucy sorting products

We welcome today’s Defra Resources and waste strategy announcement – it’s a much-needed and ambitious set of policy goals, and we are pleased to see the Government recognise the role compostable materials can play in improving recycling and rsource use. By 2025, all plastic packaging placed on the market should be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

By 2020, the central government estate will remove all single-use plastics; catering outlets at Westminster’s Parliamentary estate are one step ahead, already using and composting Vegware’s disposables, in conjunction with a range of measures to encourage reusable containers.

It’s great the Government plans to mandate food waste collections for householders and many businesses – this should bring England up to speed with the rest of the UK. The waste hierarchy on page 21 acknowledges that composting counts as recycling, and that anaerobic digestion is classed one step lower as ‘other recovery’. The UK’s in-vessel composting sector should be supported and developed as a practical solution to treat UK wastes, including certified compostable packaging. We welcome closer cooperation between anaerobic digestion and composting sectors, and see huge potential for composting as a practical solution for digestate and depackager run-off.

Extended Producer Responsibility, if the details are delivered correctly, can bring huge sustainability improvements to packaging and recycling. We already embed producer responsibility into our business. We have used 3,000 tonnes of recycled content in 2018, and our Environmental team has helped Vegware clients set up composting schemes since 2012. You can see our team’s most recent work on setting up composting solutions by clicking on these case studies: Platform at the Arches and University of the West of England.

The strategy calls out the important differences between ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ and ‘oxo-degradable’ materials, and we will be contributing to Defra’s work to develop understanding in this area. All Vegware’s products meet existing international standards for compostability, EN13432 and ASTM D6400.

Vegware Festive Opening hours

Our offices will be closed for Christmas on the 25th and 26th December and for New Year on 1st January.

Please note 9am – 2pm  office hours  on Christmas Eve, 24th December, and New Years Eve, 31st December.

For any UK orders needed before Christmas, all pallet orders must be placed by Monday 17th December and UK parcel orders must be placed before Wednesday 19th December.

From everyone at Vegware we’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes.

Compost Collective window sticker

Composting Collective – a collective solution for Vegware on the go

Vegware has launched the Composting Collective, a bring-back scheme to capture used takeaway Vegware for composting. The Composting Collective is a network of local cafes which accept Vegware packaging for composting.

More and more Vegware clients are composting disposables. Now, with our new Composting Collective, consumers can return their takeaway packaging to any bring-back bin for composting. Even if it was bought elsewhere.

Close the loop
Composting Collective window sticker

Consumers can spot sites by their Composting Collective window stickers and in-café posters. It’s a great way to encourage customers to visit other independent cafes – to return used Vegware, and to buy another coffee!

All Vegware packaging captured in the Composting Collective is sent for commercial composting. Under these ideal conditions, Vegware’s plant-based packaging breaks down in under 12 weeks, turning into quality compost – to return nutrients to UK soils and help new plants grow. All while supporting the UK’s circular economy.

To find a Composting Collective member, or to join in, see Composting Collective.

Vegware PLA polylactic acid NatureWorks pellets compostable biodegradable bioplastic plastic

All about PLA & CPLA – compostable bioplastics made from plant starches

At Vegware, we manufacture our catering disposables from a variety of plant-based materials. We use paper, board and pulp, but the big difference is that we don’t use conventional plastics.

Our cups still need to be leakproof, and our clients still want clear windows, so we use compostable bioplastics – compostable materials derived from plant sources.

Vegware biodegradable compostable PLA CPLA bioplastic compost plastic
A compostable lunch: PLA cold cups and portion pots, PLA linings in our hot cups, and CPLA coffee lids and cutlery

What is PLA?

PLA is a compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars. PLA stands for polylactic acid. It can be made from any sugar, such as corn starch, cassava, sugar cane, or sugar beet. NatureWorks is the world’s largest producer of PLA, and a key partner to Vegware. Industrial corn is the primary source crop at the moment, but NatureWorks are working actively to diversify feedstocks, investigating other fibrous non-food crops, or even creating lactic acid from carbon dioxide or methane.

NatureWorks refer to their PLA under the Ingeo brand, and offer full information online on how it is made, and end of life options.

Vegware PLA compostable bioplastic biodegradable

How PLA is made

Corn plants are milled to extract the starch, in the form of glucose. The glucose is then fermented to produce lactic acid. Next up, a chemical process transforms the lactic acid into a polymer, which can be made into pellets, known in the industry as resin.

Just like a conventional plastic resin, the PLA pellets can be used in a variety of ways – extruded into a sheet or film, injection moulded, cast into sheets, or spun into fibres. PLA has a huge range of applications, but at Vegware we use it for:

  • PLA-coated board for paper cups and soup containers
  • Clear cold cups, salad containers, deli and portion pots, and lids for a variety of products
  • Clear windows in sandwich wedges, salad boxes and bags
Vegware PLA polylactic acid NatureWorks pellets compostable biodegradable bioplastic plastic
PLA pellets ready for a variety of uses

CPLA – crystallised PLA for higher heat use

PLA has a low melt point, so is best for cold use up to around 40ºC or 105ºF. Where more heat resistance is needed such as in cutlery, or lids for coffee or soup, we use a crystallised form. This involves adding chalk to the PLA to act as a catalyst, and then rapidly heating and cooling the PLA resin during production. The result is a product which is heat stable to 90ºC or 194ºF. Vegware’s CPLA products are still suitable for industrial composting, in either in-vessel or open windrow composting.

CPLA compostable plastic bioplastic biodegradable
CPLA is crystallised PLA, for hotter uses like coffee lids or cutlery

Corn for food, feed AND industrial uses

The industrial corn used to make NatureWorks Ingeo PLA is non-food-grade, so it is not competing with food for human consumption. The whole plant is harvested, and every part of it is used. The protein and starch have many different uses:

  • the plant-based proteins are used to make animal feed;
  • the starch has many industrial uses, including in airbags, corrugated cardboard, recycled paper, pharmaceuticals, condoms, oil refining and drilling…and making PLA.

Read more information on food and bioplastics from NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of PLA.

Vegware PLA corn bioplastic plastic biodegradable compostable
All of the corn plant is used, creating animal feed and many industrial products

Sustainable growing practices

The corn plants are grown using sustainable farming practices, without excessive pesticides and water use. In the same way that FSC can prove the sustainability of timber production, NatureWorks has independent ISCC PLUS certification – more info here. This in-depth scheme demonstrates the sustainable growing practices for the plants used by NatureWorks to make PLA:

  1. No sourcing from land with high biodiversity, high carbon stock or from peatland (2008 as the reference year).
  2. Agricultural practices (fertilizer & pesticide use, storage, disposal, tillage practices, equipment calibration, irrigation)
  3. Environmental protection (protect natural vegetation & water courses, soil erosion, soil organic matter)
  4. Social sustainability (child labour, workers protection, labour condition, land rights, training, water rights)
  5. Greenhouse gas emissions on farm level.

Implementing this scheme has involved helping farmers to alter their growing practices for greater sustainability.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable

PLA – which waste stream?

Vegware’s compostable catering disposables can biodegrade in under 12 weeks in commercial composting, which provides the perfect balance of microbes, moisture and warmth. Our Environmental team offer our clients unparalleled zero waste support – see point 2 in our Composting FAQ.

Where there is no access to industrial composting, used Vegware should be put in general waste. Vegware’s takeaway packaging is made from plants, not plastic, using lower carbon, renewable or recycled materials, and these sustainability benefits still apply no matter what happens to them after use.

  • Used Vegware should NOT be placed in standard recycling bins which collect paper, plastics and metals, as those materials go to a different type of sorting facility. Another reason is that food waste harms the quality of mechanical recycling – the same applies to any used foodservice disposables.
  • General waste goes to either incineration or landfill. If Vegware is incinerated, energy is produced. Incineration studies from NatureWorks, a key materials supplier of ours, show that their PLA bioplastic produces more heat than newspaper, wood or food waste; also that it produces no volatile gases and leaves little residue. Some in the waste sector prefer plant-based materials over conventional plastics as they give off fewer toxic gases.
  • In landfill, studies have shown that compostable packaging is inert and does not give off methane.
  • Please do not litter – compostable packaging is not expected to break down when discarded in the environment, and is not a solution to marine pollution.
  • Home composting conditions vary with the skill of the householder, so we don’t make any claims there, but there have been successful trials using hot compost bins.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable plastic

PLA – not a threat to plastics recycling

Compared to conventional plastics, bioplastics currently represent a tiny fraction of packaging, so it is not currently economical to sort PLA from other waste streams. If there is a major increase in bioplastics volumes, then waste sorting facilities can be calibrated to recognise and sort bioplastics using near-infrared identification. As well as composting, PLA is suitable for mechanical recycling into new PLA, as practised by Looplife Polymers in Belgium.

Studies have shown that low levels of bioplastics do not harm plastics recycling. German and Italian researchers have found there was no reduction to quality, up to these levels:

  • Up to 3% PLA in post-consumer PP plastic recyclate (1)
  • Up to 10% PLA in PS plastic re-granulates (1)
  • Up to 1-2% PLA in recycled PET plastic short-spinning plant (2)
  • Up to 10% MaterBi in the recycling of PE plastic shopping bags (2)

This information comes from (1) the report PLA in the Waste Stream, a report initiated by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture. And (2) from CONAI, the National Packaging Consortium of Italy: Working Group Biodegradable Packaging Recovery Project report, 2012.

We don’t encourage anyone to put PLA into plastics recycling, but these studies offer comfort to plastics reprocessors, who are understandably keen to maintain quality.

Composting Vegware disposables at the University of the West of England

A longtime client, the University of the West of England has been using our plant-based food service packaging as part of its Sustainability Plan for many years.

This year (2018), with our expansion into Bristol for Vegware’s Close the Loop composting collection service, the University is now turning its catering ‘waste’ into quality compost for Gloucestershire farmers.

Vegware catering disposables are commercially compostable with food waste. That means there’s no need for sorting, and the used compostable packaging – from cups and straws to takeaway boxes and cutlery – can all go together without removing the ketchup and leftover chips. An added bonus is that once food and disposables share one bin, other dry recycling bins are cleaner and easier to recycle.

With 30,000 students and 3,000 staff, closing the loop is making a difference to the University’s environmental footprint, while contributing to the circular economy.

The University’s Sustainable Projects Officer shares his thoughts here on implementing the new waste stream onto the site.

Vegware case study: Platform at Argyle Street Arches

Street food market solidifies sustainability by composting catering disposables

Argyle Street Arches is a historic venue in the atmospheric arches below Glasgow Central railway station. In 2018, the iconic site reopened to be given a new lease of life, and with it, a view to become the city’s greenest venue.

This includes offering Glaswegians a fiercely independent alternative to generic, mass produced foods by way of a new street food market: Platform at Argyle Street Arches. The indoor market brings together some of Scotland’s best independent street food traders every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with food available to sit-in or to-go.

From the outset, Platform’s mission has been to offer produce that is locally and sustainably sourced, seasonal, free range, and free trade. To complement this, they sought eco-friendly food and drink packaging, knowing that food contamination is a barrier to recycling conventional plastic single-use containers.

Keen to ensure the best waste solution for their catering disposables, Platform contacted Edinburgh-based Vegware.

Click here to read more and see the 5 steps Platform and Vegware took to create a sustainable street food market.

Say aloha to Hula: our new plastic-free cold cups!

Get a taste of island life with our new Hula paper cold drink cups.

These rich colours are mixed within each sleeve you receive: tropical mango, sea green, hibiscus pink, Big Island blue and Vegware green, and printed using water-based inks.

The bold party colours are inspired by Hawaii’s warm hospitality, and a geometric leaf pattern celebrates the islands’ rich vegetation.

Choose from 9, 12, 16 or 22oz sizes to bring a splash of colour to your cold drinks like juice, soda, beer, cocktails or water.

It’s also great for hot snacks like popcorn or fried treats.

Hula cups fit our cold cup lids – available in flat and domed options with you choice of with or without a straw hole. Use the Series number to choose the right lid size.

Made from sustainable board and lined on both sides with plant-based PLA, they’re commercially compostable with food waste where accepted.

Place your order today!

 

Bristol Vegware close the loop compost composting disposables single use plastic biodegradable collection waste recycling eco

Bristol launch party! Close the Loop & the Composting Collective

Hello Brizzle! Please join us on 8th November to celebrate the Bristol launch of Close the Loop, our composting collection. And the Composting Collective, a bring-back scheme for compostables on the go.

  • Learn how Bristol businesses can compost disposables
  • Q&A discussion on waste issues with other businesses
  • Hear how you can contribute to UK waste policy changes
  • Free event with tipples & veggie nibbles
  • Networking time

When: Thursday 8th November 2018, from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Content starts 5:40pm.

Where: Pacific Yoga, Ground Floor, The Brewhouse, Georges Square, Bath St, Bristol BS1 6LA

RSVP: All welcome, but spaces are limited, so register to guarantee your place.

Close the Loop – now in Bristol

Vegware is delighted to launch Close the Loop, its new Bristol composting collection service. This initiative will collect used Vegware takeaway packaging from Bristol businesses, for composting in under 12 weeks at Rose Hill Recycling, Gloucestershire.

Launched last year in Scotland, the award-winning Close the Loop composting collection is now available to businesses in Bristol, as well as Gloucester and Worcester. Bristol sites already using the collection service include UWE, the Wildscreen Festival, and Pacific Yoga.

Join us to celebrate, discuss waste issues affecting Bristol businesses, and hear about how you can give your input to forthcoming government waste policy.

The Composting Collective

This a new scheme launched responding to demand from Bristol’s independent cafés. Participating cafés display the Composting Collective window sticker inviting people to bring in used Vegware for their Close the Loop bin, even if it came from a different café. Collectively, Bristol cafés can then capture compostable disposables for composting. The scheme also aims to encourage people to visit independent cafés over large high-street chains.

Come along and ask all your waste questions. See you there!

vegware compost waste bpi fpi composting

New composting study shows value of compostable packaging as a feedstock

Results of a new six-phase study confirmed that compostable foodservice packaging can be effectively used as a feedstock in commercial composting facilities. The US-based testing showed that foodservice packaging performed as well as wood and other traditional feedstocks.

“Knowing that compostable foodservice packaging not only helps supply desirable food scraps to composters but can also reduce the amount of supplemental feedstocks composters must collect or source is a major benefit,” said Lynn Dyer, president of the US-based Foodservice Packaging.

“While the compostable packaging industry believed that these items had value to composting operations beyond diversion of food waste, there was little data to support this,” said Rhodes Yepsen, executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute. “The goal of this study was to determine the impact a large volume of compostable foodservice items would have on the composting process, when compared to traditional compost inputs like yard trimmings, straw, wood shavings and grass.”

The Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) conducted full scale parallel operational field tests at two commercial composting facilities in two different US locations. The test sites used two of the most common composting methods in the US: aerated static pile (ASP) and open windrow (OAW).

It was funded by the Foodservice Packaging Institute and the Biodegradable Products Institute, to understand compostable packaging’s real-life impact on composting.

And something interesting for the composting geeks out there… Here the UK, since the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, catering waste has to be treated at In-Vessel Composting (IVC) or Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities to pasteurise any pathogens in animal by-products such as meat or bones. But the US does not have the same Animal By-Product Regulations as the UK, which means that Vegware’s compostable disposables can be composted in the US using methods typical of UK garden waste composting.