Reusability or Conversion
So far we have considered the renewability of the materials used in the pack.
But to be sustainable the pack should maximise the alternatives to land fill:
- Biodegradable, Degradable, Compostable
Re-use both reduces the burden on land fill and removes the need to make a second product from new resources.
- Re-use for the same purpose
- Storage for refills
- Wash balls
- Reuse for a new purpose
- Children’s toy
- Storage for new items
Recyclable Packs (Recycle ABLE)
Recycling reduces burden on land fill and can yield a new product or more of the same product.
A single recycling route is preferred.
Consumer separation can be confusing and potentially contaminate waste streams.
Items which prevent recyclability should be avoided.
Can depend on facilities available eg. Laminates.
The conversion of organic materials to basic chemicals (Generally Gases) by microbes or other organisms.
- The breaking down, under natural conditions, of an item into smaller pieces
Compostability is a combined process:
Combination of Biodegrading and Degrading.
Uses an enhanced environment (composter) with increased temperature and controlled conditions.
Produces a new product: Compost.
Benefits of Composting
- Disposes of resources without gaining further value
- Requires further resources to be used
- Uses increasing space, time and energy for no return
- Opportunity to produce compost which has value
- Compost reduces need for chemical fertilizers
- Uses some space and time for a commercial product
- Composting “closes the loop” for renewable sources
The Need for Definitions
Everything will eventually biodegrade, compost or degrade, given enough time and the right conditions.
Practically nothing will breakdown by any of these processes “100%” to leave “nothing”
So the following need to be defined:
- What do these terms mean?
- What amount of breakdown is expected?
- What time and conditions are required?
There are several standards but the European standard is the most well defined and known.
EN13432 – “Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation”
Meeting the requirements of EN13432
There are two ways to meet the standard:
- Use of 95% compostable/biodegradable materials
- Testing of final pack to confirm 90% compostable/biodegradeable under controlled conditions
Products can comply with EN13432 without specific testing, provided:
- 95% or more of the packs components can be proven to be Biodegradeable/Compostable
- All components are non-toxic
- Heavy metal levels are below the levels set by the packaging waste regulations
- Other components have no known environmental hazard
- The remaining 5% would typically be inks, varnishes and adhesives
Testing to 90% Compostable/Biodegradable
EN13432 is the “benchmark” requirement but testing (and therefore certification) is carried out to various international standards, the most common being:
- Din Certo
Non Compostable Packs
A Pack cannot be considered compostable if:
- Less than 95% known compostable
- KNOWN non-compostable components Eg. Non-biodegradable plastic laminates
- Harmful for the Environment
- Environmentally Harmful
- Heavy Metals
Boards can be considered Compostable if:
- 95% or more of the board is wood pulp
- The wood pulp is unbleached or bleached using a “Chlorine Free” method
- Less than 95% of the board is wood pulp but the finished board has passed Compost Testing
Acceptable Board Grades
Boards meeting the criteria are:
- Kraft (unbleached) Boards
- SBS (Sulphate Bleached) Boards
- “Chlorine Free” FBB Grades
- Recycled Boards
- Composite or Coated Boards (for Barrier Properties) with Certified Compostability
- Biodegradable laminates without specific testing
- PLA (Corn Starch)
- Natureflex (Cellulose from Wood Pulp)
- Degradable laminates could be potentially certified
- Recycled, degradable, PE
Barrier Coated Boards:
- “Tecta” grades are only currently certified boards. “Tecta” Base, Oven and Vapour from Stromsdal Mill
- Other Boards are being assessed but not yet available
Need to be proven to be Compostable.
Current Commercial, Food Grade, Plastics are:
- PLA (Poly Lactic Acid), manufactured from corn starch
- Natureflex (Cellulose), manufactured from wood pulp
Other materials (know but not technically/commercially suitable):
- PCL (Polycaprolactone)
- PGA (Polyglycolide)
- PHB (Poly Hydroxy Butyrate), made from sugar cane by bacteria
- “Zein”, from corn starch
- “Plastarch”, from corn starch plus other biodegradable components
Plastics made from natural oils and resins.
Not well defined.
Includes Biodegradable Plastics (PLA etc) but much wider base.
May also contain non-natural components.
Biodegradable but may need testing.
Coatings, Inks, Varnish, Adhesives
Present in all packaging and generally not proven to be compostable they should:
- Comprise less than 5% of the pack
- Not be KNOWN non-compostables
- Be non-toxic, environmentally safe and in full compliance with Packaging Waste Regulations