With compostable packaging increasingly in demand, some voices are questioning whether these materials can break down in UK composting facilities. An item may hold compostability certification, but does that mean it can successfully break down in a real-world composting environment? Small quantities of compostable packaging can be industrially composted with food and garden waste, but what about larger amounts?
We want to find out the answers. That is why we are part of a very large-scale composting trial, which is currently underway in Cambridgeshire, UK. See the scale for yourself in this short film (click here).
Millions of compostable tea bags, coffee pods, catering disposables, caddy liners and bags are in the spotlight – will they compost as expected? A group of compostable packaging and materials producers have teamed up with industrial composting facility EnVar, with expert advice from REA Organics.
What’s in the composting trial?
- Over 7.3 million tea bags provided by Ekaterra brands PG Tips and Pukka, and Biome Bioplastics
- Over 23,000 coffee pods by Blue Goose Coffee and The Green Ring
- Six tonnes of used Vegware containers, cups and cutlery, from Recorra’s waste collections at catered offices in London
- 25,000 caddy liners made from Novamont’s Mater-Bi
- Nine pallets of compostable bags by Tipa for Le Col
- Ninemillion sweet wrappers, aka 2.4 tonnes of NatureFlex cellulose film made by Futamura
- Punnets & lids for Riverford and 1,000 tea sachets by Parkside Flexibles
Results of the trial will be announced in mid-2023. The compostable packaging materials are being included in EnVar’s normal in-vessel composting process, which produces PAS100-quality compost within eight weeks. EnVar’s compost is used on UK farmers’ fields to help a variety of crops grow, benefitting from better soil structure.
Lex Thornely, co-founder, Blue Goose Coffee, said: “We were the first company to introduce compostable coffee pods to the UK in 2017 and have consistently pushed for greater biowaste infrastructure ever since to help UK coffee lovers be part of creating better systems. We therefore jumped at the chance to be involved in the Compostable Coalition UK by supplying 16,000 used compostable coffee pods for use in the Coalition’s huge industrial composting trial. We see it as pivotal research to unlock widespread access into biowaste infrastructure for compostable packaging and prove that these materials are our future.”
This composting trial is an activity of the Compostable Coalition UK, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at ensuring compostable packaging is effectively collected and organically recycled via existing UK bio-waste infrastructure.
This 2-year project brings together compostables producers Tipa, Futamura, Vegware and Biome Bioplastics, behaviour change experts from the University of Sheffield and Hubbub, and waste industry partners EnVar Composting, Recorra, REA and Recoup. The ‘Closing the Loop for Compostable Packaging’ project is funded by Innovate UK’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge fund.