Take away packaging on trial: is it time to go compostable after coronavirus?

These days, the closest most of us get to ‘eating out’ is embracing the unusually sunny British weather to gather around the garden table, and it’s likely to be that way for some time to come.

Limited on-site dining

Even after lockdown is lifted, it is likely that a gradual approach will see pubs, cafes and restaurants be some of the last businesses to open. Luckily, for those of us that still fancy a break from cooking, some take-away restaurants are still open. However, contact-less delivery and limited menu options are likely to be the order of the day when you do find one that is open. Thankfully this won’t always be the case. As the curve begins to flatten and case numbers decrease, it’s likely that the UK will slowly follow in other countries' footsteps and we will once again be able to enjoy our favourite cup of café coffee or meal from a restaurant.  However, ‘dinning in’ might be a different matter entirely.

It is widely expected that social distancing will continue for some time and, whether this comes in the form of banning on-site dining, or restricting it to every other table, the capacity for ‘eating in’ will be limited. None the less, these establishments will want to open, and considering that our lives have been so limited for so long, demand for their culinary delights is likely to be high. This is where take-away will begin to take on a new life.

Whether it’s a drive through double expresso or the collection of a ceasar salad, the result could well be a marked increase in the consumption of single-use packaging.  Unlike the old-world where we would visit an eatery and stay there to enjoy our beverage or meal using stainless steel cutlery and porcelain plates, now we may be hurriedly leaving the premises in an attempt to eat our purchase before it gets cold - this will require more than usual amount of take-away packaging.

So, is there a way to make take away packaging more environmentally friendly?

Although in many cases items like pizza boxes are made from cardboard, they are notoriously difficult to recycle due to the contamination from sauces, toppings and grease. Similarly, foil curry pots and the cardboard lids have the same problem. In most cases, effective recycling requires waste items to be separated from food, rinsed and clean. With paper and cardboard based materials this isn’t possible. Similarly, although take-away hot drinks cups can technically be recycled, due to their liquid resistant plastic lining, they need to be taken to a specialist facility, of which there are very few in the country. Separate collections are required but many people are still confused about the process and mistakenly include them with general cardboard recycling.

Composable solutions

Along with less pollution and fewer airmiles, a lower use of single-use items and therefore less packaging waste might be one of the few positive consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Inadevertantly we have probably done more good for the environment in the last 6 weeks than in many years previous, and it will be important to maintain this momentum after lockdown. One possible solution to the take away conundrum might be for catering businesses to take more active approach to ensuring their take away packaging is compostable.

Compostable packaging provides a smart solution for this problem. Vegware for example is made from plants, using renewable, lower carbon or recycled materials and is designed to be commercially composted with food waste. Its range of more than 300 products includes cutlery, hot and cold cups, tableware and takeaway containers.

However, like most challenges related to recycling, the biggest hurdle will be educating the users to make sure they know that the items should be disposed of and collected separately to ensure the full circle benefit.

Currently Cawleys collects used Vegware packaging from businesses around Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire and take it to an approved local facility for processing. There, it breaks down into high-quality soil improver in fewer than 12 weeks. We would actively encourage all businesses with onsite catering facilities for staff and customers to consider a switch to Vegware at this time but we are keen to also remind those who do that , for the initiative to be truly sustainable, the used Vegware items need to be transported to the correct composting facility in a completely uncontaminated state. This is where the Cawley’s partnership makes a real impact. Cawleys are now offering a comprehensive collection and transport service to all Vegware clients in the region to ensure a closed loop approach. To discover more about the benefits of compostable packaging, our partnership with Vegware and the services we offer, visit our web page.

 

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