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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.

BBIA bio-based biodegradable industries association compostable

Composting infrastructure webinar with Vegware, BBIA, REA ORG

Confused about composting? Keen to understand recycling infrastructure for compostable packaging?

Join a free webinar this Monday 24th September at 3pm UK time, to hear presentations from industry experts including technical experts from the trade association representing the composting facilities. Our Communications Director Lucy will be speaking about UK access to commercial composting. The webinar is hosted by the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA).

If you listen live, you can put your own questions to the panel. To listen back after the event, go to http://bbia.org.uk/webinars/ 

Organics recycling and infrastructure webinar

Speakers:
  • David Newman, Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association
  • Andy Sweetman, Futamura
  • Emily Nichols, REA’s Organics Recycling Group
  • Lucy Frankel, Vegware
  • Charlie Trousdell, REA’s Organics Recycling Group
The webinar will cover subjects such as:
  • recycling options for compostables in the UK
  • industry roadmap for compostable materials
  • the challenges with plastics recycling
  • contamination in recycling systems – plastics, bioplastics, and compost quality
  • the value of compost

Register for free here. You can also watch it later. We look forward to hearing your questions!

Vegware biodegradable compostable PLA CPLA bioplastic compost plastic

Breaking news! UK Parliament to dramatically reduce plastic use through Vegware compostable products

The UK Parliament will be replacing their single-use plastic food and drink packaging with plant-based Vegware. These products include our certified compostable cutlery, coffee cups and lids, soup containers, takeaway food containers, salad boxes, and drinking straws.

As part of this sustainable switch, Parliament will be introducing new waste bins to capture the used compostable disposables, which will then be sent to an in-vessel composting facility. The used Vegware will first be shredded, and the composting process will start by naturally occurring micro-organisms already in the waste. The process results in high-quality compost being produced that is fit for any garden.

Eilidh Brunton, Vegware’s Group Recycling Consultant, said:

“The UK Parliament choosing and composting Vegware is the highest accolade for compostable disposables as a practical recycling solution in foodservice. It’s an exemplar of best practice, breathing life into circular economy principals, composting biowaste here in the UK to enrich British soils. We are delighted to be a part of this collaboration.”

Compostable products are just one of many measures announced this year by Parliament, with the aim of eliminating single-use avoidable plastics from both Houses by 2019. It has already made reusable coffee cups readily available and, from October, will stop selling bottled water.

To learn more about this news, read the full press release here or get in touch at comms@vegware.co.uk.

Vegware open windrow garden waste composting compostable cups coffee drinks

Newsflash! First step towards UK garden waste composters accepting Vegware’s cups & lids

Garden waste composting facilities across the UK are now officially allowed to process Vegware’s certified compostable hot and cold cups and lids, if milk and cream are the only animal by-products present. This DOESN’T mean that Vegware cups can go in garden waste bins starting today – it means the facilities are now officially allowed to consider processing it, which is the first step.

It’s not possible without independent certification, but all Vegware’s cups and lids have valid compostability certificates.

Now we can start working through our environmental due diligence programme with the composting facilities and waste collectors. We will announce good news region by region, wherever businesses and householders can start putting Vegware cups and lids in their garden waste bins.

This was a Vegware initiative together with REA’s Organics Recycling Group, approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

With well over 100 open windrow composting facilities around the UK, this news dramatically increases the number of facilities allowed to process compostable drinks waste. It adds to the existing 53 in-vessel composting (IVC) facilities licensed to process food waste, over a third of which already accept Vegware’s compostable packaging.

This is a game changer for Vegware’s compostables, expanding composting opportunities for our numerous clients who only serve drinks. We’re growing the UK’s circular economy – disposables made from plants, composted here in the UK, creating compost to feed British fields.

Composting methods & used Vegware packaging
TYPE OF FACILITY FOOD WASTE RECYCLING FACILITIES GARDEN WASTE COMPOSTING FACILITIES
PROCESS In-vessel composting (IVC) and some anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities with a composting phase

 

Open windrow composting (OAW)

 

SUITABLE PRODUCTS BY VEGWARE · Vegware’s full range of plant-based compostable foodservice disposables · All Vegware hot cups – single wall, double wall

· All CPLA hot cup lids

· Clear PLA cold cups and lids

· PLA-lined paper cold cups

· Wooden stirrers (pure untreated wood, so no certification required)

Vegware’s compostability certificates for these products are available on request

CLIENT USAGE Any food or drink, including animal by-products such as eggs, meat or bones Strictly DRINKS ONLY, with MILK or CREAM as the ONLY animal by-products
COLLECTED IN Vegware’s range of certified home compostable biobags
OTHER ALLOWABLE WASTES · Used coffee grounds and loose-leaf tea

· Tea bags and coffee capsules with a valid compostability certificate

· Garden waste can be processed at all composting facilities

Continue reading Newsflash! First step towards UK garden waste composters accepting Vegware’s cups & lids

Behind-the-scenes of our photo shoots: National Vegetarian Week

As National Vegetarian Week nears its close, we reflect on our favourite veggie dishes created for Vegware’s photo shoots.

Our beautiful food photography, and videos, are all done in-house!

When planning a photo shoot, we look to feature foods that work for a variety of taste buds. The goal of the photo is to leave you ‘hungry for more’ (and, admittedly, to feed our team!).

Here are some of the best vegetarian meals we’ve made, displayed in our plant-based foodservice packaging which can be composted with food waste where accepted.

Chickpea and lentil curry
To kick things off we’ll go with our most recent Indian-themed shoot. Dished up in our 32oz PLA-lined paper food bowl, we have our very own Vegware veggie curry. Featuring dark lentils, chickpeas and red peppers, we served it with sides of onion bhaji and naan bread.

Vegan burrito bowl
Our gourmet bagasse bases are perfect for serving up colourful burrito bowls. Providing enough room for your guacamole, beans, peppers, salsa and sweetcorn in one handy base. Combine the different elements of your burrito bowl for some great flavours or wrap it up as filling with corn flour tortillas.

Vegan burrito bowl Plant-powered salad bowl
Served from a bowl in our palm leaf tableware range, this salad packs a powerful protein punch. Chickpeas and feta cheese rest on a bed of leafy greens, dressed in a light vinaigrette.