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Fully Compostable Packaging

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to Compostable Packaging Solutions

It may be hard to believe, but we're living in an age of environmental enlightenment; a 'Make Do and Mend' renaissance, if you will. Worldwide, in the face of ecological adversity, everyday people are banding together with mighty governments, influential figures, prominent blue-chip companies and philanthropic investors to form a waste-reducing, resource-saving, planet-preserving green revolution; an uprising which continues to snowball and persists across all borders and political divides. And in this epoch where people are starting to pass on plastic and where consumers expect to purchase packaging with principles, fully compostable packaging is the eco-elegant answer they're looking for.

The jewel in the crown of environmentally-responsible packaging, compostable products are the quintessential solution to herald in this new dawn of Earth-conscious commodities.

But with the arrival of these alternative forms of packaging comes an unfamiliarity; an incomprehension that puts this ecological awakening at risk, risks which come in the form of consumers making unintentional disposal faux pas and unscrupulous companies using this collective naiveté to "green wash" shoppers; duping them into believing that their environmentally-responsible products are far more eco-friendly than they actually are. It's therefore completely understandable as to why the idea of investing in, using and disposing of compostable packaging can be quite daunting.

Which is why we've created this comprehensive guide to compostable packaging in the UK; to educate and inspire people about fully compostable packaging; its pros, its cons, its benefits and all the ins and outs of compostable packaging materials.

1. What is compostable packaging?

Compostable packaging is packaging that when left in the environment will decay into beneficial biomass; carbon-based organic molecules that contain hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and, unlike conventional forms of packaging, no toxic chemicals or harmful particles which can end up seeping back into our soils, waterways or airways. What compostable packaging will leave behind, however, which traditional types of packaging do not, is nutrient-rich humus; black, jelly-like organic matter that improves the health of our soils and strengthens ecosystems.

What is compostable packaging made of?

Principally, compostable packaging is crafted from a combination of recycled natural materials and organic, plant-based virgin substances such as wood pulp; potato starch, bagasse, fungi, cotton or palm leaves. Cardboard boxes, gardening twine, moulded wood pallets, wood wool, paper 'bubble' wrap and clay desiccants are therefore all examples of fully compostable packaging.

There are also forms of fully compostable packaging - such as kitchen caddy liners and compostable air pillows - that are made from a blend of organic materials (typically wheat, corn or potato starch) and either natural polymers (e.g. cellulose) or innovative bio-based thermoplastics. And while the term 'thermoplastics' might make green collared conservationists twitch, these forms of plastic rather than being made from fossil-based raw materials are actually derived from renewable vegetable crops; crops that have been responsibly grown in soil that is unsuitable for growing food, therefore helping to avoid food crop displacement and improving biodiversity. Bio-plastics, therefore, are not at all like the conventional plastics we've come to hate; rather they're made from renewable and compostable plant-based materials that look and feel like traditional polymers as well as having the same strength and flexibility as them.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)
Polylactic acid or polylactide is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable biomass, typically from fermented plant starch such as from corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp. In 2010, PLA had the second highest consumption volume of any bioplastic of the world.
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a type of compostable thermoplastic derived from renewable biomass; it disintegrates entirely rather than crumbling into detrimental micro-plastics, therefore making this polymer a kinder alternative to conventional plastics.

2. How does compostable packaging work?

Like other forms of packaging, when compostable packing materials can no longer be reused, restored or repurposed and they're disposed of in the environment, they'll start to degrade. However, because compostable packaging is made from organic materials, their decomposition process is similar to the way in which food waste breaks down. As such, fully compostable packaging decays in a relatively short space of time; months rather than years compared to traditional or 'biodegradable' packaging.

However, for compostable packaging to work; for it to decompose effectively, the right conditions need to be met. Warm temperatures, moisture, plenty of oxygen and an array of nutrients are all required to provide the ideal settings for microorganisms in our environment to thrive and consume the compostable packaging. Which is why it's essential to dispose of this type of packaging in the correct way. For example, if our compostable packing peanuts were accidentally placed in a general waste bin and were sent to a dump, they would not have the correct conditions in which to degrade in a way that was kinder to the planet. Like polystyrene, glass and metal, they - and all other forms of compostable packaging - would just sit for decades taking up landfill space degrading at a far slower rate which would only serve to hinder the natural composting process; inadvertently contributing to the release of harmful greenhouse gases and the production of chemicals that are noxious to plant life. However, if given the correct conditions, fully compostable packaging - and organic matter like food waste - does not transude harmful gases or chemicals back into the environment or our atmosphere.

If a quarter of us switched from dumping organic waste in landfill sites to composting it, we'd save the equivalent of 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 from reaching our atmosphere each year[1].

Compostable packing materials also have the added benefit that their decomposition process provides our soils with essential nutrients that all plants need to grow healthy and strong. This humus; a natural fertiliser, also provides Earth-conscious aid that goes beyond feeding flowers, trees and shrubs. For example; compost can be used to re-mediate soils that have been contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner[2].

Why composting is important
Just some of the reasons why compostable packaging and composting are so important.

How compostable packaging decomposes

The first stage of the breaking down of compostable packaging, which is known as the Mesophilic Stage, lasts only a few days and requires a constant temperature between 20°C and 40°C (68°F - 104°F). This stage allows mesophilic microorganisms to start consuming the organic packaging; deteriorating it into proteins and carbohydrates, all the while generating heat. The microorganisms' appetite for organic materials is so insatiable - and the heat they produce so intense - that within days, the temperature emanating from around the compostable packaging exceeds 40°C (104°F) and the second stage of decomposition begins.

In the second phase, known as the Thermophilic Stage, the mesophilic bacteria are replaced by heat-loving thermophilic microorganisms and the internal temperature of the organic waste pile climbs to 65°C (149°F). This dramatic increase in temperature is conducive to breaking down the tougher proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates of the compostable packaging more effectively, meaning that the organic materials are eroded even faster into finer pieces. During this stage, it's important that the temperature of the compost does not exceed 65°C as hotter conditions will kill off the helpful bacteria; hence why it's recommended to aerate and turn over compost piles routinely to help regulate the core temperature while infusing the decaying matter with additional oxygen to help the microorganisms grow.

After several weeks, when the supply of high-energy compounds has been depleted and the core temperature of the compost pile naturally begins to drop, the thermophilic bacteria disappears and the mesophilic bacteria returns for the third and final stage of composting, known as the Curing Stage. This phase typically lasts for several months and sees the mesophilic microorganisms working with fungi, actinomycetes, centipedes, woodlice, earth worms and other creepy crawlies to break down the remaining compostable packaging completely. The longer the curing stage, the better the humus.

3. How to dispose of compostable packaging

There are a few common misconceptions about compostable packaging. The first being that you can dispose of it all in the same way; you can't. The second misunderstanding comes from the mistaken belief that composting from home occurs in the same way - and has the same effects - as composting on a large industrial-scale. This isn't the case either. Which is why, when it comes to disposing of compostable packaging, it's essential that care is taken to ensure it's done correctly, otherwise the materials won't break down effectively, safely or won't degrade at all, therefore having little to zero environmentally-friendly benefits.

For example, EN-13432 certified compostable products (such as produce sacks and mailer bags) are only compostable under industrial composting conditions - not from home in a compost pile, so they will need to be placed with your food or garden waste. The exception to this rule is if these types of compostable packaging (packaging that contains bio-plastics) have been verified by Vinçotte (an eminent inspection and certification organisations who authenticate the credibility of compostable products) as being home compostable.

The reasons behind why these types of compostable product can only be effectively disposed of in specialist composting sites is because they contain thermoplastics; plant-based polymers that need to be heated to 70°C (158°F) and regularly turned within an IVC (In-Vessel Composting) facility to decompose productively. That's not to say that you can't compost these types of products from home; there's nothing stopping you from trying, however the process would take much longer (years, not months) and would require close attention to temperature, moisture and aeration to ensure that these types of compostable product are being broken down effectively - if at all.

Other types of compostable packaging - those exclusively made from recycled natural materials and organic plant-based substances like paper bags, Kraft tape and bamboo - can easily be composted from home as they contain no bio-plastics and they can degrade without the need for such high temperatures or such rigid attention to aeration and humidity.

But what about compostable food packaging such as disposable coffee cups, takeaway cartons and straws?

Most people and businesses assume that because these types of product are labeled biodegradable - and because they're likely to be tainted with food waste by the ends of their lives - that they can be disposed of into food waste bins. However, while noble in their efforts to be environmentally-friendly, for most regions of the UK, compostable food packaging are products ahead of their time. That's because they need to be disposed of in specialist In-Vessel Composting facilities (IVC) to be dealt with effectively and since there are currently only 53 IVC sites across the UK, most families and businesses are missing out on being able to dispose of their compostable food packaging correctly as the majority of local authorities still send their food and garden waste to conventional composting sites.

That's why, despite being incredibly counterproductive, at present, if bona fide compostable food packaging is sent with other types of organic waste to a traditional "open window" composting facility - the odds of which are quite high - they will only be removed and sent to landfill. The reason given that the compostable packaging would contaminate the waste stream of these common composting sites.

In-Vessel Composting (IVC) facilities are incredibly sophisticated waste management plants that can deal with food, garden and compostable packaging waste. Computerised monitoring and forced aeration ensure that the correct conditions for effective composting are met and maintained and by harnessing and accelerating the natural decomposition process of organic materials, high quality compost can be produced in as little as one month.

In essence then, unless local councils state that the garden and food waste they collect goes to an IVC facility, compostable food packaging cannot - despite its organic nature - be composted and should go into general waste bins. That being said, because most compostable food packaging is made from plants using resource-saving and waste-reducing processes as well as being made from renewable and recycled materials, they are still kinder to the planet even in a landfill than conventional forms of packaging are; their sustainability benefits still apply no matter what happens to them after use. In fact, recent studies by NatureWorks - a world-leading bio-polymers supplier - show that in landfills, compostable packaging is inert and does not produce methane; a greenhouse gas 21 times more hazardous to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide[3]. They also discovered that when compostable food packaging is incinerated, it produces more energy than what newspaper, wood and food waste can generate, therefore meaning more energy can be harnessed and turned into electricity. Not forgetting that no volatile gases or toxic residues are involuntarily produced in the incineration process either[4]. And as waste management technologies continue to improve, compostable food packaging in the UK will continue to grow from strength to strength. For example, recycling firm First Mile is the first eco-friendly firm in Great Britain to offer businesses a dedicated compostable packaging collection service, and garden waste facilities are now permitted to process certified compostable packaging materials; this move dramatically increasing the number of ways people can dispose of their compostable waste.

However, until waste management technologies are developed and Earth-conscious bureaucracies evolve and until there comes a time where the disposal of compostable packaging is a convenience which everyone can enjoy, if your local authority's food collection scheme does not go to an IVC facility and if there are no independent businesses nearby that offer compostable packaging collection services, the best thing to do is to put these types of compostable packaging into the general waste bin. As flawed as this method of disposal might be, remember that sending these types of compostable items to landfill is still preferred to leaving them to escape as litter into the environment, not forgetting that even in landfills, compostable food packaging will decompose in a kinder, more Earth-friendly way than traditional forms of packaging.

Where to put compostable packaging

4. How to tell if packaging is genuinely compostable

There are several ways in which to tell whether packaging is authentically compostable or not. The first way is to consider what the packing materials - or products- are made of. If they're made entirely out of natural materials, even if they're purely recycled organic substances, then those items can be composted because they're all-natural. So, packing materials such as paper, cardboard boxes, hessian, flax insulation, clay pellets, pulp corner protectors, Eco Bottles, Loliware straws and mushroom-based packaging are all bona fide compostable.

If the compostable products you've invested in are starch-based and made with innovative thermoplastics, then you'll need to check that the product has been approved by one of the two European bodies who authenticate the credibility of compostable products; Din Certco or Vinçotte. Only these two companies lend their name to fully compostable packaging and only those companies whose products can be found on the Din Certco and OK Compost databases can use the following logos on their packaging to demonstrate that what they're selling is certified compostable; the same goes for home compostable products.

Din Certco's Seedling logo, Vinçotte's OK compost logo and Vinçotte's Home Compostable logo

Each organisation has its own approval logo but both share the same certification code; EN-13432. So, on any thermoplastic-based compostable product not only should you see the EN-13432 code, you should also be able to see a valid 7P (Din Certco) or Sxx (Vinçotte) number. These unique certification codes are issued by Din Certco or Vinçotte to compostable packaging manufacturers to certify that their products are European Bioplastics compliant. They also help consumers to trace the products back to their source. Each product or product 'family' i.e. the style of product with a specified size and thickness, are issued different 7P and Sxx numbers.

So, if compostable items don't clearly display one of the above three logos; if they don't exhibit the EN-13432 certification code and an individual licence number, chances are the items aren't genuinely compostable. If you're still unsure as to whether the products you've invested in are legitimately compostable or not, approach your supplier and ask to see their product certifications.

5. Is compostable packaging recyclable?

On the whole, compostable packaging cannot be recycled alongside paper, plastic, glass or metal as they would contaminate the recycling plant's waste streams. Compostable components - and the specific environments in which they need to decompose effectively - are far too disparate from their recyclable counterparts that they would cause machinery malfunctions; would degrade the integrity of any newly made recycled materials and overall would cause more environmental harm than good. That being said, there are certain compostable packing materials that can be recycled: cardboard and paper.

In most cases, biodegradable plastics and raw, organic materials cannot be recycled. Neither can they be composted from home as they will only degrade in industrial composting plants under specific conditions.

6. Is compostable packaging more expensive?

At the moment, yes, compostable packaging is more expensive than conventional packing materials and whilst the majority of people and businesses agree that eco packaging is a ‘nice to have’ commodity, some believe that their cost is prohibitive. But environmentally friendly packaging has become significantly more affordable in recent years – ‘eco’ is no longer shorthand for ‘expensive’. The economies of scale mean that eco-friendly packaging companies are now able to offer increasingly competitive prices, owing to greater demand. And as these businesses continue to develop new methods and materials to lower the cost of recycled and compostable packaging, and when you consider that the price difference between the conventional and compostable packing materials are now nominal (in our research, for example, the difference in price between a plastic coffee cup and a fully compostable bamboo coffee cup is just 8 pence) and taking into account the long-term ramifications of not using compostable packaging - including the costs of environmental pollution, landfill congestion and taxes and charges on conventional plastic packaging - then this price difference is actually inconsequential.

The use of plastic became so prevalent because it has always been cheap to produce. Unfortunately, as we're only learning now, it's much more costly to use plastic in the long run due to the damage it can cause. Compostable products, on the other hand, are currently more difficult to manufacture, therefore making them, for now, ever so slightly more expensive than traditional forms of packaging.

Considering that eco-friendly compostable packaging works just as well if not better than conventional packaging (for example, our packing peanuts have been independently verified by two academic institutes to provide better protection than polystyrene packing chips) and that compostable packing materials when they decompose aren't just kinder to the planet but are also beneficial, it puts their marginally elevated costs into perspective. In the end, we've got to ask ourselves, "What's the real price of getting rid of plastic packaging? What price are we willing to pay to save our planet?" And considering that back in 2015, 66 per cent of all global consumers were already willing to pay more for sustainable, eco-friendly goods[5], it makes the affordability of compostable packaging completely moot.

7. Is compostable packaging good for our planet?

Since the early 1970s, we Brits have adored plastics, but ever since our love affair with these fossil-based polymers came to an end around four years ago, we are still, in the aftermath of this messy divorce, dumping a lorry-load of disposable plastic waste into our oceans, worldwide, every minute[6]. So, with our dependence on plastics still running high and with the realisation that we'll be paying the price for what we now know to be an illicit love of single use plastic packaging for generations to come, the benefits of using compostable packing materials to the environment are significant.

Whether we like it or not, there will always be situations where demand for throwaway packaging remains. Even with a major shift towards reusable packing materials and an about-face to the "Make Do and Mend" ethos of the 1940s, single-use packaging will always be needed, especially for food. These dispensable items should therefore be made out of compostable materials as they're much kinder to our planet than conventional forms of packaging.

Compostable packaging, as well as requiring less carbon and water to produce - therefore helping to undo the damage greenhouse gases have had on our atmosphere - also lowers our reliance on virgin materials (even those from renewable resources) thereby helping us to protect ecosystems, preserve endangered species and promote sustainability. Fully compostable packaging also reduces the amount of waste we send to landfill and when these types of ecological packing materials break down they don't produce any harmful chemicals or toxic greenhouse gases that can end up in the environment. Plus, as a byproduct of their organic decomposition, compostable packaging gives back to our planet by making humus; a nutrient-rich, water-retaining all-natural fertilise that has the capability not just to feed plants and help promote higher yields of agricultural crops but also aids in the restoration of ecosystems; helps prevent flooding and can help to destroy 99.6 per cent of industrial volatile organic chemicals in contaminated air[7].

In the first three months of 2018, customers who purchased Vegware (an innovative range of compostable food service packaging) helped save over 900,000 kilograms of carbon; over 300,000 kilograms of virgin material and diverted over 700 tonnes of waste from landfill.

So, yes, compostable packaging is good for the planet, but what about for your business?

8. Is compostable packaging good for your business?

In short, yes, it is. Understandably - and most importantly - there are the environmental benefits of using compostable packaging solutions; you'll reduce the amount of carbon your business uses (thereby lowering your carbon footprint), you'll divert more of your waste away from environmentally-damaging landfills, you'll contribute positively to the reduction of pollution of all kinds, you'll be giving something back to the planet in the form of humus and you'll be helping to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and virgin plant-based materials.

But on top of this, there are also social and financial benefits to using authentic eco-friendly packaging. Culturally, by investing in sustainable packing materials and taking corporate social responsibility seriously, businesses can help educate and inspire their customers to transform their local communities into eco-elegant neighbourhoods. By using and promoting renewable, good-for-the-Earth products and advocating green ideas, companies can genuinely make a difference to peoples lives; not just for future generations but for us too, the people who are currently living through this environmental renaissance.

The choices that businesses make today can still have a positive impact now. By being environmentally-friendly, caring companies with big green hearts can help save the planet by making it a cleaner, healthier, more bountiful place to be, thereby giving us an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate where we live and who and what we share the Earth with.

For example, did you know that most forms of compostable packaging are allergy free? And with 20 per cent of all people across Europe suffering from allergies - making them the most common chronic disease we face - surely that's a good thing[8]? So, by supplying customers with non-toxic packaging, businesses can allay peoples fears of possible asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock, therefore making them happy.

And speaking of being happy, scientific evidence suggests that being happy has major benefits for peoples health; for instance, happiness lowers heart rate and blood pressure, it combats stress, boosts immune systems and protects people from aches and pains. And considering that eight in 10 consumers are happy to pay more for eco-friendly packaging[9], it makes sense for businesses to present people with the products that will make them happy. By helping customers feel happier, eco-minded companies can help transform communities into healthier, bustling boroughs where people live longer[10], have a sound holistic state of being and where they take pride in being environmentally-responsible.

This link between placing more value on health, well-being and being eco-friendly is a relationship that businesses can utilise not only to improve their local stomping grounds but to extend their customer reach and garner financial benefits. By developing an ethical supply chain that includes compostable, sustainable packing can bring far-reaching business benefits; after all, environmental responsibility is not at odds with profitability, in fact, it can help businesses build their brands, win new contracts and safeguard their reputations. How? Because good will and advocacy equal sales.

That's because today's consumers are demanding more from businesses; companies are no longer solely judged on product and service quality. Corporate and supply chain ethics are increasingly influencing behaviour, therefore, companies seen to be making responsible choices and giving back to the global community in the wake of worldwide climate and wildlife crises are flourishing whilst brands whose ethics aren't considered to be up-to-scratch are publicly chastised. By considering sustainability and making environmentally responsible choices, companies can harness the good will felt towards those that ‘do good’ and create an army of passionate advocates who will do all they can to sell their business for them.

By using compostable packaging, businesses can put themselves in a greater position to appeal to consumers concerned about our collective impact on the environment. After all, 83 per cent of people believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. Nearly three-quarters say they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago, and 81 per cent admit they expect to buy more over the next five years[11].

By investing in sustainable, fully compostable packaging (particularly if it's home compostable), businesses can expect better brand recognition and a positive company reputation as a responsible and ethical business. From this they can expect increased sales and customer loyalty, lower operational costs and easier access to capital. By reducing resource use and waste and greenhouse gas emission, businesses who go green even benefit from lower operational costs.

A 2014 analysis report by the Carbon Disclosure Project concluded that firms in the US who took pro-active action on climate change saw an 18 per cent increase on return on investment than those who did not and that 74 per cent of companies agreed that operating in a socially and environmental way had a positive effect on their finances[12]

9. The future of compostable packaging

Fully compostable packaging solutions
Futuristic packaging that's kind to the planet; the potato starch-based compostable wrapping for the Saturday Guardian, fully compostable foam by Green Cell Foam and compostable carrier bags from the Co-op.

While compostable packaging solutions are not yet plentiful, they are available and they are on their way to better affordability; availability and easier implementation.

Collectively, no matter our political stances, backgrounds or differences, we know that this route of alternative packaging is the kindest to our planet, so product innovations, waste management technologies, and ecological bureaucracies and frameworks need to evolve and improve, tout suite. But what is being done - or what can be done - about shifting our stance from conventional and 'biodegradable' products to compostable and home compostable packaging?

In proposals published earlier this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) stated that while it is aware of the trend for compostable packaging and supports this, "appropriate treatment infrastructures" need to exist before they can add compostables to a core list of materials that every council across the UK must collect as part of their waste management schemes.

As the availability of compostable packaging continues to rise, the UK needs to implement better technologies and regulations to ensure their effective disposal.

So, to make compostable packaging truly beneficial and to make compostable collections available to everyone, avant-garde compostable packaging manufacturers and academic institutes are having to come up with solutions of how to expand the number of ways waste management firms can accept and dispose of compostable packaging products effectively. And while this may mean spending more time conducting research (a frustration that we could really do without in the face of the climate crisis), by gaining a comprehensive understanding of how compostable and biodegradable packaging works in the environment; particularly in water and low temperatures, we will reduce the risk of ecological erroneousness; we may as well get our solutions right the first time round rather than continuing to pay for our mistakes, especially since we have recently discovered that 'biodegradable' plastic bags don't degrade (even after being buried for more than three years).

In our rush to replace plastics with more environmentally-conscious packaging, let us not ignore the caveat of getting ahead of ourselves.

That being said, innovative businesses and organisations are already making headway into making compostable packaging easier to produce; easier to use, simpler to dispose of and more widely available. For example, Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at University College London states that "the problem [with recycling and composting] is that there’s no such thing as a sustainable material – only a sustainable system. And in the UK we don’t have a sustainable system to deal with the increasing number of compostable plastics finding their way into our daily lives." Which is why he and his team are "looking into the possibility of putting some sort of marker into biodegradable plastics" to help waste management machines identify what is compostable and what is not.

In-the-same-vein, Mark Lingard, Marketing Manager of packaging firm Sirane says that "until the UK has a coherent nationwide recycling policy, it is always going to be difficult for packaging suppliers and retailers" to be environmentally-responsible. "Statements, such as 'widely recycled', 'recyclable where facilities are available' etc., are [of] no use. Materials should be either recyclable or not, on a national basis.” Therefore, government bodies and independent ombudsmans - while state-of-the-art packaging solutions are being made - need to work together to put infrastructures in place to ensure that packaging is labelled in such a way to make disposal information easier to identify.

And seeing as the disposal of compostable products is the greater issue than a lack of legitimately biodegradable packing materials, UK companies should now be investing in home compostable products. These forms of compostable packaging should not merely been seen as a stopgap solution but as a way to empower people to be self-sufficient; teaching them the importance of being environmentally-conscious and giving them the skills and tools they need to transform their lifestyles, their gardens and their health and well-being. For those reasons combined with the financial benefits of doing so, Waitrose, Sainsburys and Marks & Spencers are already looking into switching their ready meal packaging, carrier bags and other forms of food packaging with home compostable products; packaging which doesn't need to be sent to any form of waste management plant, thereby circumventing our precarious reliance on these facilities.

Edible Packaging Solutions
Edible water pods; paper wraps, waffle bags and spoons. All comestible culinary delights which not only benefit our planet but us too!

Edible packaging - newfangled fad or cutting-edge protector from plastics?

As we have come to learn, compostable packing materials are, on the whole, all-natural, organic products. Therefore, it's quite easy to accept the idea that there is now packaging that we can eat. For example, London-based Notpla create pods made from seaweed that are edible as well as fully compostable and as well as using these innovative bubbles to deliver hits of Lucozade Sport to marathon runners this year, the company has also been trialing edible sauce sachets with takeaways from 10 restaurants in a partnership with Just Eat. In New Zealand, Better Burger, in an effort to stop littering and to highlight the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to packaging, wrap all their burgers in razor-thin wafer paper which can simply be eaten. Indonesia-based start-up Evoware recently developed edible packaging for Belgian waffle manufacturer Bruxelwaffles and not only are the bags they make edible, they also provide customers with extra fiber, vitamins and minerals. And in India, Bakeys has recently started shipping their edible, fair-trade, vegan-friendly utensils to the rest of the world with flavours ranging from celery to ginger-mint.

But are these forms of packaging just a fad or are they the next step in revolutionizing the packaging industry and in turn the food industry? The answer, like most things in life, is not simple. On the one hand, edible packaging does tackle the issue of moving away form single-use plastics, they even support marine life sustainability, however, they do seem to lack the capacity to accommodate a consumer's day-to-day lifestyle. Notpla's water capsules, for instance, might work well for big sporting events but they don't offer the same convenience as a reusable water bottle as the pods are not resealable and only hold the equivalent of one large gulp. Also, for many, there will always be an apprehension about edible packaging as other packing materials (like plastic) may still have to used alongside them for hygiene reasons.

So, on the whole, edible packaging is a radical solution that goes a long way to help but it won't eradicate our plastic waste problem on its own.

10. So, should I be investing in - or opting for - compostable packaging?

Yes. To become more environmentally-responsible; to help improve the health of our planet and all its ecosystems, to help decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and technologically-inept waste management facilities, to promote sustainability, to bring communities together and to improve our health, well-being and happiness, investing in and opting for compostable packaging is key. In particular, home compostable packaging as this is currently the optimum solution we have at present in combating our excess-effected, plastic-induced pollution, climate and wildlife emergencies.

And here at Eco Packaging Solutions, while none of our packaging is edible, all of our products are completely home compostable. So, if you'd like to upgrade the way you pack, ship or store your items or products, then please check out our shop to view our ever-expanding selection of eco-friendly alternatives to ordinary packaging. Alternatively, please feel free to get in touch with your packaging requirements if you can't find exactly what you're looking for and one of our passionate Eco Advocates and Customer Success Heroes will have a no-obligation chat with you about your Earth-conscious packing requirements.

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