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Jun 08, 2020

Let's talk compostables (and food)!

Words by First Mile

Many people are unaware that placed in the wrong bin, compostable packaging may do more environmental harm than good. Put it in your general waste and it won't be recycled. Placing it with your food waste won’t work either, as the rate at which compostable items decompose is vastly different to food. And no, sadly chucking them in with your mixed recycling is also not an option - they’ll clog up the machines and contaminate the recycling.

Confusing isn't it? Here's what happens to your food waste...

Food waste is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion facility where micro-organisms break it down. Biogas is produced which is converted into green energy, and fertiliser is also created as a by-product of the digestion process. Hurrah!

But... all too often food waste is contaminated with packaging. Something that the little bugs don't take too kindly to. Therefore, upon arrival at the AD facility, food waste passes through a de-packaging line which removes the packaging.

What about compostable items and packaging we hear you ask!

    Compostable packaging, which in theory can be digested, is also removed in the de-packaging process because the processors can't differentiate between regular and compostable packaging. This means that compostable packaging is removed and incinerated… the same as if it were a regular plastic bag.

    If all packaging were to switch to compostable overnight, then AD plants could change their front-end process to digest the packaging too. But until this happens (if it ever can), claiming that compostable packaging can be put in with food waste to be composted is not completely true.

    Positive change is coming...

    At First Mile, we're working with an AD facility that uses pyrolysis to eliminate non-compostable packaging at the front-end, meaning that the value in the compostables is passed through to the digestors. At the moment, there is only one of these plants in the UK, but over time we hope to see more of them. Don't despair though, more often than not, compostable packaging has a lower carbon footprint than a petroleum equivalent so they are still a better option, environmentally. But, it's even better if you recycle it properly via a verified compostable packaging recycler.

    To find more out more about compostables, listen to Tony Small the Founder and CEO of Decent Packaging.

    Want to understand the difference between biodegradable and compostable? Read our blog here where we explain it in detail.

    Use our dedicated Compostable Packaging Recycling bags to give the land a special treat.

    Got a smaller quantity to recycle? Check out our RecycleBox scheme for one-off orders!

    For more info on Decent Packaging, tune in to our Podcast with Tony Small.

    By First Mile

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