How to dispose of recyclable and compostable packaging
With so many different sustainable packaging options readily available on the market, it’s difficult to understand exactly what they are and how they work, let alone which bin to put them in after use. The common belief is that anything eco-friendly can be placed in the recycling bin which, sadly, is not actually the case.
Why is it important to know how to dispose of your packaging?
We all have a responsibility to look after our planet and be aware of our impact. This means doing everything we can to reduce our waste, including disposing of it properly. Unfortunately, brands and waste management do not make this easy for consumers with such a lack of clear instruction, which results in only 0.01% of things such as recyclable cups actually being recycled.
As well as checking your local council to see what they can and can’t recycle, you can help educate yourself and your customers on what each type of sustainable packaging is and where you can correctly dispose of them:
Recyclable packaging is made of materials that can be re-processed and used again. This is most likely to be packaging made from one type of material, such as card, paper and certain plastics like rPET and PET. Recyclable packaging will always include the universal recycling cycle with the material type.
Packaging that has been made with recycled materials simply means it has not been manufactured with virgin resources - the materials have been reused to create something new and can continue to be recycled.
Compostable packaging is a type of packaging, usually made from plant-based materials like sugar cane bagasse, that will break down in a commercial composting facility without leaving harmful micro-plastics behind. There is not currently an official icon for compostable packaging, however the packaging should be clearly labelled with ‘compostable” to make it clear to consumers.
Different to compostable packaging, home compostable packaging is packaging that will fully decompose in a correctly maintained soil compost heap.
So which packaging goes in which bin?
Recyclable - I go in the recycling bin!
This depends what type of recyclable bins are on offer. At NaturePac, when we talk about recyclable, we mean it is recyclable at kerb side (at home) in the majority of the UK. So, this will be packaging items which is designed to be easily recycled and will most likely mean packaging items made from one type of material. Examples of this would be our paper carrier bags, brown kraft meal pails, rPET cups, etc… These items are made from either just paper / board or Recycled PET (if they contain any glue, water-based coatings, inks, etc… these elements are removed easily during the recycling process).
Remember to always check with your local council on what they can currently recycle in your area.
Compostable - I go in your regular bin!
Most compostable packaging is actually industrially compostable. This means the packaging items needs to be sent to a commercial in-vessel composter along with food waste. The benefit of this type of packaging is that it doesn’t matter if it is contaminated with food (oils, grease, etc…) as it should be composted along with food waste. Most industrially compostable packaging is made from renewable resources, which is a benefit over traditional packaging, even if it doesn’t get composted.
The biggest issue with industrially compostable packaging is having access to commercial composting facility. There aren’t many in the UK and so if you want to ensure your industrially compostable packaging is disposed of correct, it is best used in a controlled environment where you can organise the waste management and use a specialist company to ensure it gets composted. The majority of industrially compostable packaging should not be recycled with other packaging and it will contaminate the recycled material. For example, PLA (Polylactic Acid) should not be recycled with other plastics as it will degrade the other recycled plastic and could make the recycled material useless. This might mean it needs to go to landfill or be incinerated.
Home compostable- I go in your home compost heap!
Home Compostable packaging items are designed to be composted at home. They are designed to be compostable at much lower temperatures, which means they should be composted in a home compost heap within 12-16 weeks. At NaturePac, if there isn’t a suitable recyclable option for our industrially compostable items, we are trying to make sure there is a home compostable alternative. We want to make responsible disposal of your packaging as easy as possible.
Need more help?
Our experts are incredibly passionate about helping brands be more planet positive. Whether that’s helping you find the perfect sustainable supplies or if you're simply looking for advice on how you can be more eco-friendly, don’t hesitate to get in contact by giving us a call or dropping us an email!