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?
Compostable Coalition UK has kicked off a large-scale composting trial, currently underway in Cambridgeshire, UK. This short film explains the composting process and the materials being tested:
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 using Futamura’s NatureFlex material and PLA
- 6 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
- 9 pallets of compostable bags by Tipa for Le Col
- 9 million sweet wrappers, aka 2.4 tonnes of NatureFlex cellulose film made by Futamura
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 8 weeks. EnVar’s compost is used on UK farmers’ fields to help a variety of crops grow, benefitting from better soil structure.
This composting trial is part of a major project run by 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, along with 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.