Eco Friendly Help!
Understanding how your business can be more environmentally friendly can be difficult. We have put together some key Eco guidance to help you make the best choices, both for your business and the environment.
We are always happy to offer further advice and help you decide which products will be best for you, simply call our customer service team or pop over an email with your requirements.
Telephone: 01202 684111
Understanding Key Terms
Recyclable means a material can be recovered once thrown away, broken down and reused to make a new product. Some of the most common types of recyclable material include:
Recycling has a positive environmental impact as products made from recyclables require less energy, carbon and raw resources to produce than those made from new materials. Recycling also means less waste is sent to landfill, reducing these sites' damaging effects on the environment.
In order to be recycled, these products must be clean and dry. This can be a challenge for the catering and hospitality industry as contamination from food and drink is difficult to prevent. Heavily contaminated materials may be rejected for recycling and will often be incinerated or sent to landfill.
Whereas recyclables are often disposed of after a single use and remade into a new item, reusable products are designed to last for years and many repeat uses.
Reusing products reduces the consumption of single-use items, meaning less waste is sent to landfill. This also means less carbon and raw materials are then required to make new goods.
Recycling is great for the environment, but the procedure does require energy to collect and process each material. Reusables have a longer life and reduce dependence on single-use products, the amount of energy and greenhouse gas emissions involved in the recycling process is also decreased.
Once finally disposed of, many of these reusables can be recycled and remade into another item, completing the product’s lifecycle.
Biodegradation is the naturally occurring breakdown of materials, either by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, or through other biological activity.
Being able to biodegrade does not necessarily mean a product is eco-friendly. For example, plastics are biodegradable, but will leave behind microplastics that can be harmful to marine life and other ecosystems. Some biodegradable materials can also last hundreds of years in the environment without ever breaking down. While they may not break down quickly or safely, many of these materials can be recycled which means fewer raw materials will have to be sourced and used in the manufacturing process and thus is overal far better for the environment.
Composting is a man made process where a material will biodegrade under specific conditions, usually at a certain temperature or within a certain timeframe but only when exposed to the correct balance of microbes, moisture, oxygen and warmth. To be called compostable, these products must biodegrade into nutrient-rich compost that can be used to grow more plants.
These specific conditions of compostability are laid out in various codes and rules, officially known as ‘standards’. Products that comply with these standards are certified and labelled to guarantee they are compostable. The most common standards used for packaging products are the European EN 13432 and the American ASTM D6400 standards.
In order to fully compost and meet these standards, the products must be sent to commercial composting facilities together with food waste. Products placed in home compost bins may still compost, but there is no guarantee they will completely biodegrade or break down within a set timeframe.
These products are still much more enviromentally friendly than regular plastics or other non compostable items as they are made from renewable materials and take less carbon to produce.
What's the difference between Biodegradable and Compostable products?
The difference between biodegradation and composting is that biodegradation is a naturally occurring process. Composting always requires man power.
The biggest difference between biodegradable and compostable products is that compostable items have a guarantee that they will biodegrade under the specific conditions. Biodegradable products have no such guarantee.
Unlike compostable items, biodegradables also have no guarantee they will break down into the Earth safely and produce nutrient-rich compost that can be used to grow more plants.
Essentially composting is biodegradation, but under specific conditions. Every compostable product is biodegradable, but not every biodegradable one is compostable.
“Sustainable packaging is the development and use of packaging which results in improved sustainability. This involves increased use of life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle assessment to help guide the use of packaging which reduces the environmental impact and ecological footprint. Source: wikipedia.org
Eco Friendly Materials
PLA - polylactic acid - is a compostable plastic made from plant-based materials
PLA behaves the same way as oil-based plastics, which makes it suitable for most packaging and disposable products.Although it is best suited to holding cold products.
Unlike standard oil-based plastics, PLA is not made from finite resources and is a highly renewable material. As PLA is made from plant-based materials such as corn starch, it can be fully composted in a commercial composting facility.
CPLA is a form of PLA that has been crystallised for added strength and heat resistance. The main difference between PLA and CPLA is that PLA is best suited for cold use, while CPLA products are better used with hot food and drink, such as hot cup lids.
As CPLA is a stronger form of PLA, it's perfect for making disposables such as straws and cutlery where extra rigidity is needed.
CPLA is made entirely from plant-based materials and is completely compostable in industrial facilities.
Bagasse is made from recycled sugarcane. Once sugarcane has been pressed for its juice and syrup, the dry fibre left behind is heat and pressure moulded to create bagasse products.
Bagasse is very environmentally friendly as it is made from both a renewable resource and a waste product, meaning fewer raw materials will need to be harvested and less waste is produced from manufacturing processes.
Bagasse is completely compostable in industrial composting facilities.
Bamboo is on of the fastest growing tropical grasses in the world, it's also able to regenerate without the need for replanting, requires minimal fertilisation or pesticides and will biodegrade into the Earth quickly and safely, making it a highly renewable and eco-friendly resource.
Bamboo is also naturally strong, hard and water-resistant. Bamboo products will withstand robust use without breaking.
Bamboo is biodegradable - as long as there are no additional products used when manufacturing the item.
Palm leaf products are made from the fallen leaves of palm trees. These trees naturally shed their leaves between four and seven times a year. The leaves will then be collected, cleaned with water and heat pressed into different shapes and sizes. This means they are completely organic, biodegradable, highly renewable and free from harmful substances. This makes palm leaf products a brilliant eco alternative to polystyrene disposables.
Recycled paper products offer great environmental benefits. Recycling paper means less waste is sent to landfill which reduces the amount of harmful greenhouse gases let off, as well as helping to stop the pollution of soil, surface water and groundwater.
Using recycled paper also eases the burden on forests around the world and helps to minimise the effects of deforestation on the environment.
Paper is a widely accepted material for recycling, and can be remade into a variety of different products which makes it an incredibly eco-friendly material for packaging and disposables.
Sustainable Foresty Products
Paper and wood harvested from sustainably managed forests are used to make products marketed as "sustainable".
There are many factors that define what a sustainable forest is, including ensuring felled trees are regrown, the rights of indigenous people, forest workers and local communities are protected and all the ecological functions of the forest are preserved.
Forests that meet these standards are accredited with a sustainability certification. The most widely used certification is given by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Products manufactured with materials sourced from these forests will be classed as FSC-certified.
Forms of Plastic
Polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE, is one of the most commonly used plastics. PET is mainly used to make soft drink bottles, juice containers and food packaging such as salad trays.
Is PET widely recycled? Yes. PET bottles and packaging are some of the most widely recycled products in the UK. Recycled PET (also called RPET) can be used to make everything from fabrics to new food packaging.
HDPE tends to be opaque and is generally used to make milk bottles, cleaning product bottles and food packaging. Like PET, HDPE is one of the most commonly used plastics for food and drink packaging.
Is HDPE widely recycled? Yes. HDPE bottles, pots and tubs are widely accepted for recycling. Recycled HDPE is often used to make non-food containers, kitchen bins, recycling bins, bin bags, pens and cleaning chemical containers.
PVC (commonly called vinyl) is a versatile plastic that can be used to make everything from cling film and shrink wrap to window and door frames.
Is PVC widely recycled? No. Cling film in particular is difficult to recycle as it tends to be contaminated with food or drink. Cling film is also not easy to sort mechanically, making it costly to process. However, there are waste management services in the UK that will accept PVC for recycling.
LDPE is mainly used to make carrier bags, high-strength bin bags, packaging film, squeezable bottles, food wraps and for lining cardboard containers.
Is LDPE widely recycled? Not currently, although more and more waste management services are beginning to accept LDPE for recycling – including carrier bags and bin bags. Recycled LDPE is used to make everything from bin bags and floor tiles to kitchen and recycling bins.
Polypropylene is one of the most frequently used materials for packaging and labelling. Examples of polypropylene products include microwavable meal trays, bottle tops, food tubs and layers of film for food packaging.
Is polypropylene widely recycled? Like LDPE, polypropylene is not currently widely recycled, although an ever-increasing number of waste management services and local councils are starting to collect it.
Polystyrene is used to make everything from takeaway cups and yoghurt pots to burger boxes, egg cartons and packaging peanuts.
Is polystyrene widely recycled? No, polystyrene is generally not accepted for recycling, although some industrial services will accept it. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) products such as cups and packaging peanuts aren't usually recycled as they can be difficult to segregate from other plastics and will often break up into small beads, causing blockages in sorting machines.