Category Archives: environment

Join Vegware at the PAC-12 Sustainability Conference

Our Zero waste Director, Julia Wetstein, is speaking at the upcoming Pac-12 Sustainability Conference. Julia will be presenting research, conducted by CMA and the University of Washington, on the benefits of utilising composting packaging to capture post-consumer waste.  Register for the conference today!

Julia will be discussing compostables on a panel alongside experts from the Composting Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) and University of California, Berkeley. Julia has over 20 years experience in composting, agriculture and implementing zero waste programs. In the Vegware team, she bridges the gap between the foodservice and composting worlds. We catch up with her before the conference:

Continue reading Join Vegware at the PAC-12 Sustainability Conference

Why soils matter

Soils and climate change

Poor soils fuel climate change. There is three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere, and this carbon is released in land degradation.

Land degradation is the process by which the quality of the land is affected by human activity.  According the recent Global Assessment carried out by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), land degradation is responsible for annual global emissions of up to 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2. It releases carbon stored in the soil and it effects the growth of plants, reducing their intake of carbon from the atmosphere.

IPBES’s Global Assessment states that, unless we reduce and reverse land degradation, it is projected that by 2050:

  • 50% of wild creatures will be lost,
  • human migration of people from the driest lands will rise,
  • and crop yields may reduce by up to 50% in some regions.

Addressing land degradation and climate change

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change targeted a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° above pre-industrial levels. Tackling land degradation could provide over 1/3 of the most cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation activities needed by 2030 to achieve this goal.

Climate change and land degradation should be addressed together with similar urgency.

According to IPBES:

“Urgent action must be taken to halt, reduce and reverse land degradation. The longer we delay the more costly and difficult restoration becomes. The cost of inaction is at least three times higher than the cost of action. And the benefits of land restoration are many times more valuable than the costs.”

Toil for soil

Among other actions, Vegware believes we can take steps to reduce soil loss and improve soil health in crop lands. Composting used Vegware returns nutrients to the soil, and has the added benefit of improving soil structure, reducing the risk of floods. Now, over 1,200 UK postcode districts have access to a Vegware-approved trade waste composting collection. To learn more, see here.

Vegware packaging now ‘Composter Approved’ by US Compost Manufacturing Alliance

Following successful trials, Vegware announces today it has received the Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) approval on a wide range of its plant-based compostable foodservice packaging. These highly respected American standards provides official recognition and acceptance of the Vegware products as compostable by both CMA-I facilities and Cedar Grove’s covered processing system.

Testing compostables

The CMA and its affiliated partner, Cedar Grove Composting in Washington State, field testing results demonstrate that products manufactured by Vegware are acceptable in operations and processes.

The CMA is a partnership of the top U.S. compost manufacturers, providing field validation of compostable feed stocks within real world processing technologies. Cedar Grove Composting is a Seattle-based, family-owned business producing nutrient-rich compost.

As composting collections and processing grows in the US and globally, ensuring foodservice packaging works as feedstock in modern large-scale composting facilities is essential. This way, operations at each step of the organics recycling process runs smoothly.

Vegware approved

This official recognition allows access to the CMA “Composter Approved” logo. The “Composter Approved” logo signals nationwide processing opportunities to create quality compost from Vegware’s wide range of plant-based compostable foodservice packaging.

Continue reading Vegware packaging now ‘Composter Approved’ by US Compost Manufacturing Alliance

Paper recyclers say no to food and suggest limits for plastic, in new WRAP and CPI guidelines

Is your paper being recycled? Anything more than food staining on paper packaging is problematic for paper recycling, according to the new recycling guidelines from The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).

Vegware believes that compostables solve the issue of food contamination on catering disposables. Compostable packaging and food waste can be recycled together in industrial composting, leaving other dry recycling cleaner for processing.

Mixed materials challenge the recycling process

Conventional foodservice packaging is notoriously challenging to recycle as it is a combination of materials.

Any raw paper or board materials contaminated with food waste or other mixed materials can undermine the full benefits of recycling paper.

Food waste’s negative effect on recycling

The guide states that surface staining of packaging is processable, but leftovers or food attached to the packaging is unacceptable for recycling. Vegware’s experience in working with the waste sector is that both the packaging and food waste are then sent to waste disposal.

Vegware is aware that uncontaminated PET water bottles have an established recycling infrastructure, but a cardboard sandwich wedge with a plastic lining and window and contaminated with food waste doesn’t.

The plastic problem

Over 3-5% plastic contamination puts pressure on the process. For example, from Vegware’s work with foodservice, the windows in sandwich wedges and plastic linings in coffee cups are a considerable recycling issue.

A compostable solution?

Current catering disposables seem unsuitable for recycling. Instead, Vegware believes foodservice should look to consider compostable packaging.

Vegware uses a variety of renewable plant-based materials to manufacture our products – we use:

  • plant-based PLA for our clear windows, and to line our hot cups and soup containers
  • reclaimed sugarcane to make bagasse food containers
  • card and paper for our coffee cups and sandwich wedges
  • areca palm leaves for our tableware
  • NatureFlex – a clear compostable film made from wood pulp – for our salad box windows and bags
  • Vegetable and water-based inks for all our printing

Our full range also holds the deepest set of compostability certification.

This eliminates the complication of mixed materials. All our plant-based catering disposables can be composted together with food leftovers and baked-on goods, turning it into nutrient-rich compost for farmers’ fields. See UK regions with composting here.

Defra Want YOUR Views – Should Compostables Become Part of Mainstream UK Waste Collections?

Now here is a huge opportunity. Do you believe compostables have a role to play?

The UK Government is about to completely overhaul our waste systems, and are seeking YOUR views.

This is your chance to tell Defra, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, if you want to see compostables become part of mainstream UK waste collections, and see the Government encouraging the use of renewable, plant-based materials.

We don’t think it’s okay to carry on relying on export to deal with the UK’s contaminated low-grade packaging waste. We have composting facilities here in the UK, but just need to develop our collection infrastructure.

Continue reading Defra Want YOUR Views – Should Compostables Become Part of Mainstream UK Waste Collections?

The EU Single Use Plastics Directive

What is it?

New far-reaching EU guidance aimed at reducing plastic marine pollution. It is based on the 10 single-use plastic items and fishing gear which account for 70% of marine litter in Europe.

“The European Strategy for Plastics is a step towards establishing a circular economy in which the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect re-use, repair and recycling needs and in which more sustainable materials are developed and promoted.”

 

What is going to be banned?

  • OXO-DEGRADABLE PLASTICS. Common in cold cups, cutlery, straws, and carrier bags, and often labelled ‘degradable’ or mis-sold as ‘biodegradable’. These are conventional plastics with an additive to make it fragment into small flakes, but are not suitable for recycling or composting.
  • EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE food and drink containers – also known as Styrofoam. Very common material in cups, clamshells, plates and bowls.
  • All PLASTIC CUTLERY, PLATES, STIRRERS and STRAWS. That includes plant-based and compostable plastics, as the Directive is based on how materials behave in the marine environment. Compostable packaging breaks down in commercial composting conditions which provide a perfect balance of microbes, moisture and warmth; these are different conditions to the sea.

When does it come into force?

2021 at the earliest, with different deadlines to achieve various goals. Agreed upon in 2019, EU member states have two years to put the legislation into their own national laws. The UK has signalled it may mirror the EU’s actions, regardless of Brexit.

Continue reading The EU Single Use Plastics Directive

Gone with the Windrow: an independent cinema inspires a cup composting solution

Wells Film Centre is a three-screen independent cinema in Somerset, the South West of England. Serving refreshments is an enjoyable part of the customer experience, as well as a vital income stream for the cinema. Wells Film Centre has been serving hot and cold drinks using Vegware’s compostable cups and lids since May 2018 – read the full story here.

Cinema owner Sally Cooper was determined to compost the drinks waste. She was disappointed to hear from Vegware’s Environmental team that, as yet, there were no regular collections covering her area.

Vegware’s Green Britain double wall cups

Composting Vegware cups with garden waste

Until now, all UK catering waste had to go to one of two processes: in-vessel composting (IVC) or anaerobic digestion (AD). There are around 50 in-vessel composting (IVC) facilities, over a third of which accept used Vegware.

Happily, for Wells Film Centre and many businesses only serving drinks, not food, Vegware was working behind the scenes on a project which would open dialogue with 150+ extra composting sites, including one in Sally’s area. In July 2018, we gained official approval for the UK’s open windrow facilities to consider processing certified compostable hot and cold cups and cup lids.

Continue reading Gone with the Windrow: an independent cinema inspires a cup composting solution

UK regions with trade composting collections for Vegware clients

Here’s the latest list of UK regions with a regular trade waste collection for used Vegware, going to a Vegware-approved facility.

Our waste activism

  • In 2012, when our Environmental team started forging links with the waste sector, compostable packaging was only accepted in commercial waste collections in 2% of UK postcode districts.
  • We’re just an SME, but we now employ three Recycling Advisors to work proactively with clients and the waste sector, increasing the regions where our clients can have used Vegware collected. Read some of our case studies.
  • Our UK coverage is growing all the time. Here’s the percentage of the 3,111 UK postcode districts with a Vegware-approved trade waste collection:
    • 2% back in 2012 when we started our Environmental team
    • Up to 25% on 1st March 2019
    • Up to 27% on 19th March 2019
    • Up to 38% on 18th April 2019
    • Now at 40% – updated on 9th May 2019

Continue reading UK regions with trade composting collections for Vegware clients

Local cafés champion new service to compost disposables

Three Yorkshire cafés lead a campaign to get local businesses to use a new waste collection service for used compostable Vegware disposables. Opposite Cafe, Laynes Espresso and North Star Coffee Shop are keen to start composting their used Vegware. In 6-8 weeks, the waste is turned into compost for use on Yorkshire fields.

The new service offers a composting solution for used Vegware and food waste from cafés, offices, schools and universities in Leeds, York and Harrogate and the surrounding region. Used Vegware is collected by Forge Recycling and taken to The Maltings waste facility, a modified anaerobic digestion plant with a composting phase, near Leeds. Forge Recycling are the only Yorkshire-based ‘total’ waste recycling company who can offer this service. Continue reading Local cafés champion new service to compost disposables

Trinidad and Tobago government ban Styrofoam packaging

Vegware welcomes news that the government of Trinidad and Tobago have approved a ban on polysterene foam products, such as Styrofoam, which will be implemented in 2019.

Banning Styrofoam imports

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says the importation of ‘Styrofoam’ products into the country will be banned. Local polystyrene manufacturers have been given time to make their products environmentally friendly.

Building on change

This builds on action taken in Tobago, where the Tobago House Assembly (THA) passed a motion to phase out polystyrene foam products.

The THA is currently working with the Castara Tourism Association to make the idyllic holiday destination Castara the first Styrofoam-free village in the country.

The Caribbean island of Dominica also implements a ban on Styrofoam cups and containers in 2019, as well as on plastic plates, cups, cutlery and straws.

Packaging tax

THA official Linford Beckles suggested there was also a need to address the tax on imported packaging. He said while there are currently, “No taxes on Styrofoam products coming into Trinidad and Tobago,” there are taxes on, “Environmentally friendly alternatives.”

Beckles said the THA is looking at two alternatives to replace the Styrofoam, one is bagasse-based and the other is corn-based.

Vegetarian Pelau box from Aunty Cathy’s Kitchen, Freeport who already use Vegware packaging

How Vegware can help

Our tableware and takeaway boxes are made from bagasse, reclaimed sugarcane, and make an excellent eco alternative to  polysterene foam . Vegware already supply several catering outlets in Trinidad and Tobago. We look forward to working with more restaurants, cafes and on-site catering in the switch to eco-friendly polysterene foam alternatives.