2019/11/08 Compostable packaging: the myths, realities and future possibilities (part 2 of 2)

Compostable packaging: the myths, realities and future possibilities
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The current state of the compostables market
As consumers continue to recognise the important of sustainability, many companies around the world are working towards making their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Lingard explains that the interest and demand for sustainable packaging, as a whole, has increased enormously in the last few years. “All buyers seem to be looking for the same thing – a way out of plastics – and this is in response to public demand, pressure to change the way they package food – something they just can’t ignore. There seems to have been an acceptance that the current situation is unsustainable and a lot of customers, small and large, seem serious about making changes.”

Currently, in the UK, recyclability is the main topic of discussion within sustainability. Lingard notes that Sirane has found that compostability seems to be very low on the list of priorities for UK consumers. However, the UK may soon follow the lead of other nations across the world, such as Africa and the Caribbean, which have garnered a huge amount of interest in compostable packaging.

One of the biggest sectors that the compostable packaging market needs to harness is food. At the moment, there are very few functional food packaging solutions available that are truly compostable. The issues preventing compostable packaging’s wider use in the food industry are largely around cost, as it is generally more expensive and there is doubt as to whether the same shelf-life as non-compostables can be achieved.

The future of compostable packaging
As the availability of compostable packaging continues to rise, the UK will need to implement better regulations when it comes to compostables.
To start, there needs to be more research into understanding how compostable and biodegradable packaging works in environments such as water and low temperatures. This would then allow for more clarity on how compostables, specifically compostable plastic, work.

Compostable plastic also needs to be clearly labelled so it’s easily identifiable to consumers, separated and disposed of via a dedicated collection and recycling system for compostable plastics.

Lingard says, “Until the UK has a coherent nationwide recycling policy, it is always going to be difficult for packaging suppliers and indeed retailers. Statements, such as widely recycled, recyclable where facilities are available etc., are no use. Materials should be either recyclable or not, on a national basis.”

“Until the UK has a coherent nationwide recycling policy, it is always going to be difficult for packaging suppliers and indeed retailers.”

In terms of Sirane’s efforts, the packaging specialist is focusing on its Earthpouch – a plastic-free packaging film, which can be supplied as a pouch, film or bag. “We have significantly developed the range in the last 12 months, adding barrier and high-barrier versions.  We are starting to see more and more customers switching to this as a packaging material. It can simply go in the paper recycling stream and is also industrially compostable. We are very proud to have developed a solution which is truly making a difference.”

The packaging film is part of its Earth Packaging range, all of which is sustainable, compostable or recyclable. Lingard said Sirane decided to combine these elements as “packaging needs to be sustainable and functional. If something is truly recyclable, then that is acceptable. Compostable packaging simply won’t be available for all types of food, so our job is to advise what can be done instead, what options they do have and help the customer to make an informed decision.”

Currently the company is working on expanding the range with compostable plastic-free plant pots, which may be released to the market within the next six months.

“In five to 10 years, I would anticipate there will be further investments and developments in the bio-films sector, and that will open up more and more compostable packaging solutions. But whether the market changes will be determined by public pressure, costs and whether the manufacturers are prepared to absorb the costs or whether they are happy to pass them on.”