Eco-friendly packaging – What does it all mean?
Biodegradable is something that is decomposed by naturally occurring moisture, micro-organisms (Fungi & bacteria) and creatures like worms, slugs, & snails. Biodegradation occurs at different speeds depending on the product. Biodegradation struggles to occur at landfill due to too little moisture and more importantly soil, which the micro-organisms live in that are needed to break the materials down; lack of oxygen caused by the compacting of waste, again needed by the micro-organisms to survive. Biodegradable plastic cannot be recycled in UK and mixing with recyclable material can lead to mixed product all going to landfill, therefore wasting recyclable material.
Compostable is very similar to ‘biodegradable’ in breaking down product, but under man-made commercial / domestic composting conditions. Both processes are similar as in the natural decomposition of natural materials back to their base components. Neither uses added chemicals & the whole process is natural, however, composting does require turning and occasional added heat and moisture. Biodegradation is natures course, with no time frame, whereas composting is much quicker. For product to be classed as ‘compostable’ it must have the European certification EN 13 432, the European certification given to product that conforms to the relevant standards for industrial scale composting conditions.
Material that is recyclable can be sent to waste facilities that can grind it down and sell it on for re-use. Most plastics and paper board can be recycled, and then used again. Most local councils will recycle material for the commercial value it raises, therefore provide recycling collections free of charge.
The use of post used consumer waste is on the increase as it reduces the need for natural resources to be used. Today’s park bench or traffic cone could have been yesterday’s drinks cup for example. A lot of clear plastic bottles and trays are now recycled to produce new food packaging, widely seen across the UK and Europe. Once the recycled product is used, it can be recycled and used again. Board is also recycled and used again in a variety of applications, again saving the need for virgin material being used, and after use can also be recycled once again.
Things for you or your consumer to consider
- Where does your waste go, for example it will not go for recycling if you put it in a standard waste bin, black sack or skip etc
- Consider what you put in each bin, if you cross contaminate materials it will more than likely go to landfill, for example putting food in with the recyclables
- If you buy lunch out, and eat in your office, where does the waste packaging actually go? Your bin → who cleans your bin → where do they empty the rubbish → is it separated?