Compostable means that a product is capable of
disintegrating into natural elements in a compost
environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil. This
typically must occur in about 90 days.
Plastic pollution is everywhere, we know the issues
and the statistics. More and more people are
choosing to buy reusable but even with this major
shift to reusables, some disposables will always be
needed. This is where compostables step in.
Combining plastic and card in food service
packaging creates massive recycling
challenges. Food contamination is inevitable,
so the result is incineration or landfill.
For disposables destined for serving food,
it makes sense to use materials that can be
recycled together with food. With compostable
disposables, food isn’t contamination, it’s a vital
ingredient in the composting process.
Compostable disposables are designed to be
recycled in an industrial composting facility
together with food waste. That means there’s no
need for sorting, and the compostable cup, lid,
burger box, knife and napkin can all go together
without removing the ketchup and leftover
chips. An extra bonus is that once food and
disposables share one bin, other dry recycling
bins are cleaner and easier to recycle.
Plants not plastic
Sustainable Africa provides packaging solutions that
are made from plants not plastic. We call this our
Renewable and Compostable range
and these are some of the ingredients that we use:
PLA is a compostable material made from
plants, it looks and feels like traditional plastic,
but is compostable in commercial composting
facilities. PLA replaces the plastic in coffee cup
linings or sandwich windows, and it’s the clear
material in our cold cups and deli containers.
Our hot cup lids and cutlery are made of a
high-heat version of PLA.
Recycled Sugarcane Fibre is another
practical material we use for our clamshells,
plates and bowls. Known as bagasse, it
performs really well, keeping heat in but not
trapping condensation. Plus, it’s renewable, a
recycled by-product of the sugar industry.
Sugarcane and Bamboo Blend – mix of bagasse and bamboo fiber.
So what are the advantages
to going compostable?
The earth has finite resources. Disposables are used
for such a short time, so it makes sense to switch to
renewable materials, reserving conventional plastics
for applications where they can’t be easily replaced.
Compostable bioplastics are made from renewable
resources such as corn and sugarcane rather than crude oil and natural gas, used in traditional plastics, both of which are finite resources.
BP’s estimates put the remaining oil supplies
at about 50 years. Although, if we are to hit our
carbon budget it is estimated that we need to leave between 75-80% of these reserves untouched.
It’s not here to stay
Compostable means that packaging can
completely break down in under 12 weeks in commercial composting conditions. This means we are able to give back mineral rich
compost that replenishes the fertility of our soil. PLA can also be recycled giving an extended life to polymers before they
Better energy generation
Incineration studies from NatureWorks
3, 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.
Reduced greenhouse gases
In landfill, studies have shown that compostable packaging is inert and does not give off methane 4. PLA bioplastic gives
off 75% lower greenhouse gas emissions
than PET, even if both end up in landfill.
Bioplastic offers a significantly reduced carbon footprint versus traditional oil-based plastics. This is because the plants used to make the bioplastic absorb as much CO
2 as they release. Traditional plastic on the other hand releases CO2 that would otherwise have been trapped underground in the crude oil.
A 2017 study determined that switching from
traditional plastic to corn-based PLA would cut
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. 1
Bioplastic is also less toxic and does not contain bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter that is often found in traditional plastics.2
But it doesn’t just end there
By choosing compostables, food service businesses can actively drive change in our recycling policy and infrastructure. The more businesses that choose to go the compostable route the better the infrastructure will be
to deal with the waste. Here at Sustainable Africa, we are actively working with the government and other private organisations in the waste sector to influence the environmental policies and the future infrastructure that we will have in place to effectively deal with waste.