WRAP, a UK-based environmental not-for-profit organisation which leads the UK Plastics Pact, has published new guidance to help businesses make informed choices when considering the use of compostable packaging.
Based on the products and infrastructure that are available to packaging designers and specifiers today, the guidance identifies key applications and opportunities for compostable plastic packaging, according to WRAP (@WRAP_UK) .
These are often items which are likely to have food residue on them and could potentially facilitate the recycling of food waste. The key potential uses are:
- Food caddy liners (and other bags such as carrier bags or fruit and vegetable bags that could be used as food caddy liners)
- Fruit and vegetable stickers
- Tea bags
- Coffee pods
- Ready meal trays
- ‘Closed loop’ situations e.g. festivals
Recommendations about how to communicate with citizens about appropriate disposal of compostable plastic packaging are also provided – for example, explaining whether the item can be composted at home or not, and highlighting the importance of not putting them in the recycling bin with conventional plastics.
Helen Bird, Strategic Engagement Manager at WRAP, said: “We know from research that 77% of citizens believe that compostable plastic is better for the environment than other types of packaging. However, compostable plastic is still plastic, and it is no silver bullet for solving plastic pollution.
“Businesses need to be clear on when it is viable, given the complexities surrounding current treatment infrastructure. When it comes to recyclability, WRAP is clear that a claim of ‘recyclable’ should only be made if it can be recycled in practice. The same should be applied to compostable plastics. And it is critical that end markets for recycled plastics are not compromised; people need clear instruction not to place compostable plastics in the recycling bin.
“But there are certain applications where it can be a helpful alternative to conventional plastics; absolute no-brainers include fruit stickers and tea bags. This new guidance will help steer decision-making on this complex and high-profile topic.”
The guidance highlights the importance of communicating with citizens to ensure they end up in the correct bin, but the challenges in doing so owing to the current infrastructure.
Some instructional phases are suggested such as “place in your food or garden waste bin if your local council accepts it”, while also recommending statements to counter the risk that some people may see compostable plastics as a license to litter.
In March, WRAP is launching a campaign aimed at citizens which will provide factual and balanced information about plastics, including compostable plastics.
Commenting on WRAP’s new guidance, Paul Mines, CEO of Biome Bioplastics, said: “It’s very encouraging to see WRAP and the UK Plastics Pact recognise that compostable plastics have a pivotal role to play in the UK’s packaging industry, particularly when it comes to ensuring food-contaminated materials and packaging do not end up in landfill. They have also acknowledged that bringing more compostable plastics to market will help reduce the amount of plastic infiltrating our soils following anaerobic digestion and composting processes.
“New bio-based and compostable materials are crucial to solving our global plastic predicament. Biome has long-supported improvements to the UK’s waste management infrastructure, particularly composting, to support the growing share of compostable materials used in packaging. It’s encouraging that WRAP is starting to align with our views, and we are excited by the prospect of this direction of travel.”