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5 Minutes with…Annalise Matthews from Vegware

“Over the last two years especially, Vegware has seen a significant increase in demand for our plant-based compostable catering disposables, as seen by our sales, expansion and staff growth.”

Vegware is a manufacturer and visionary brand, the global specialist in plant-based compostable foodservice packaging. Our full range of more than 350 eco-friendly catering disposables are made from plants using renewable, lower carbon, recycled or reclaimed materials, and can all be commercially composted with food waste where accepted.

They have been headquartered in Edinburgh, UK since 2006, and currently sell to 70 countries. Vegware continues to have growing demand for its plant-based products as foodservice operators seek better options for single-use disposables that do not tap into the earth’s finite resources.

Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye catches up with Annalise Matthews, Waste Management Consultant at Vegware.

Liz Gyekye (LG):  Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Please summarise your role and what you specialise in?

AM: I’m one of the Waste Management Consultants at Vegware. Working within Vegware’s full-time Environmental team, I advise clients on their options to compost their used Vegware with food waste. I’m fully engaged with the waste sector – both waste hauliers and facilities – to create new routes to industrial composting facilities, which in turn helps the UK and Europe expand its recycling infrastructure and allows the foodservice sector to join the circular economy. My role also involves running Vegware’s own Close the Loop composting collection service in central Scotland.

LG: Before going into your current role, what did you used to do?

AM: Prior to working at Vegware I was employed by Scotland’s largest environmental charity. They specialise in energy and fuel poverty, household waste, carbon reduction and in addition to this, have their own business recycling and waste management service which they run across central Scotland. Before this, I spent a year studying towards my MSc in Environmental Protection and Management at the University of Edinburgh.

LG: What can the sector to do to help combat consumer confusion over compostables?

AM: Knowledge sharing and transparency is key. At Vegware, we are proactive in helping our customers introduce new recycling systems on-site, and provide education to a site’s staff, users and visitors on recognising our compostables, what their benefits are and how to properly dispose of them. This is done through staff training, bespoke bin signage, and educational posters and factsheets – all of which help to facilitate behaviour change when a new site adopts Compostable Packaging & Food Waste bins on-site. We also offer a wealth of case studies to show how clients successfully introduced Vegware – and a new recycling system that includes collecting and composting used Vegware – onto their site. A handful of these case studies can be found on our website.

When it comes to the best end-of-life solution for our clients’ used Vegware, we showcase the work we are doing to increase routes to commercial composting. Vegware has the deepest set of compostability certification in the sector and we conduct large-scale trials in commercial composting facilities to ensure they can compost Vegware before recommending them to our customers.

We advise customers on the composting options available in their region, whether it’s through a regular waste collection, one-off collections for events, a UK post-back courier service with our partnership through First Mile’s RecycleBox, or on-site composting options. We only advise customers of waste routes which are Vegware-approved, where we’re confident in knowing the waste is being taken to the correct facilities for processing. We work to establish new waste routes for our customers, big or small – from large corporate office sites with more than 1,000 staff to small independent cafes. We also act as a waste broker in Bristol and much of Scotland through our Close the Loop composting collection service. Our online composting page is full of useful information, and we’re always in dialogue with others in the sector to share best practices.

For sites where composting may not yet be an option, we share scientific studies, for examples ones that show PLA doesn’t release methane in landfill – and turn this into education materials for clients to share with their staff and customers.

Additionally, our Communications team utilise and social media, @vegware, as opportunity to inform the public, and provide clarity and transparency, around our products.

LG: What opportunities are there for compostable packaging in the current climate?

AM: Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the food-to-go trend was continually on the rise with businesses looking to adopt eco-friendly practices with plant-based Vegware compostables.

Today as you know it’s a whole new world, and we are open and here to support foodservice during these challenging times. Many restaurants and cafes are adapting to offer takeaways and deliveries, and schools and community organisations are now preparing and serving meals. We applaud all catering outlets doing their part to stay open and evolve, helping to nourish local communities. Our business has food safe catering disposables for takeaways and deliveries. Vegware staff are all working safely and remotely from home, and our three international warehouses in the UK, Europe and USA are all open for business, taking required safety measures, and making deliveries of our essential foodservice packaging.

LG: What global trends are you seeing for your compostable packaging? Where are you seeing strong demand for your products?

AM: Over the last two years especially, Vegware has seen a significant increase in demand for our plant-based compostable catering disposables, as seen by our sales, expansion and staff growth. We believe it’s due to raised awareness on the challenges in recycling conventional plastic packaging that’s used in foodservice. The issues around recycling plastic-lined coffee cups, plastic straws and plastic bags are regularly covered by documentary makers and the press, and also on the agendas for government and advocacy groups. These are positively contributing to driving awareness and the need for change. Unlike traditional foodservice packaging, our full product range of cutlery, hot and cold cups and lids, tableware and takeaway containers are all produced with recycling in mind. There has been an increase in demand at both closed sites such as offices, universities and stadiums but also at take-away sites who want to make a general move away from plastic based materials.

LG: What one thing would you like the bio-based industry to do better and why?

AM: Focus on the end-of-life options for the products by building stronger working relationships with the waste sector, both organic recycling facilities and waste collectors. By focusing on both the production of bio-based products and the end-of-life options, we can work together to achieve a truly circular economy.

LG: What’s your favourite bio-based product?

AM: My favourite bio-based product has got to be our new round Bella pots which are part of our Deli container range. They are sturdy round pots perfect for cold food and snacks on the go, like granola and yoghurt, mixed salads or cold desserts. They’re also compatible with our 96-Series cold cup lids. Both our Bella pots and lids are made from PLA, a renewable material made from plants. Vegware’s Bella pots  (pic left)have on-pack eco messaging in green and feature our Green Leaf tab that showcase their compostable credentials.

Annalise Matthews will be will be speaking at the World Bio Markets Conference, the leading assembly for the bio-based economy, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which takes place from 2-4th November.

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: Bioeconomy 2020 outlook: Lucy Frankel from Vegware.

Read: Producers should promote bio-based plastics that can be recycled and not compostables, FEAD states.

Read: Lavazza officially launches compostable coffee pods.

Read: Expert view: Going around in circles with compostables.

Read: UK should stop plans to ramp up use of ‘industrially’ compostable packaging, MPs warn.

Read: AMT Coffee unveils ‘let’s make the change’ bio-compostable cups for Christmas season.

Read: Deterioration of compostable bags in the sea happens rapidly, new study finds.

Read: Student brews up a ‘Flat White’ after creating range of glasses made from coffee grounds.

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