Where reusable isn’t possible, choose certified compostable.
There is global agreement that plastic waste is a critical issue – and there is a lot of plastic in packaging. We all need to make an effort to reduce our waste and the amount of plastic we consume.
Some go as far as achieving close to zero waste, fitting their years’ worth of rubbish into a tiny glass jar. Don’t get us wrong – this is a fantastic feat and true commitment – but we need to be realistic and realise zero-waste is not easily achievable for most people. There will always be a need for packaging – especially when it comes to takeaway food and drink items.
There is a fundamental purpose to packaging: it protects products, provides safety for handling and transportation, and makes sure our food and beverage are sanitary and safe for people to consume.
It is inevitable that there will be situations where washing and sanitising reusable products is challenging or not accessible. Think stadiums, concerts, outdoor events and even the ED ward of hospitals. People need to be able to enjoy food and beverages in a variety of contexts safely.
A day out at a food show involves sampling a wide range of food and drink – it’s not entirely practical to bring reusable containers, cups and cutlery to try the varieties of food on offer. How can you wash and sanitise in between dishes? In this case, it’s easier (and safer) to use the bamboo bowls provided. Major events such as food shows will always require single-use packaging to ensure safety and speed when serving meals, as well as ease. And the best way to deal with that waste? Compost it, to create a valuable by-product.
Perhaps you’re having a busy day and you need to swing by your local and grab a coffee to go, but your reusable coffee cup is in the dishwasher at home. Forgetting your cup is not uncommon. Single-use packaging is a good solution here – but only when it’s certified compostable, and you can shred it and put in your compost bin at home later.
Airlines is another example of where reusable food packaging is not fit for purpose. We’ve all seen the limited space air hostesses have to work with – try to imagine the space and level of care required to serve hundreds of passengers with glass plates and cups, not to mention the dishwasher facilities necessary to serve food that meets hygiene regulations. Sometimes, the best option is single-use takeaway packaging. Even better – compostable.
In situations where washing and sanitising reusable products is not easy, the single-use packaging is the best and safest option. So where single-use packaging is necessary, why not make it as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as possible? Great idea! And there is already an existing solution: compostable single-use packaging proven to divert organic waste from landfill and advance the circular economy.
Ecoware pioneered the compostable packaging industry in New Zealand 8 years ago, and today compostable packaging companies have been listed as some of the fastest growing businesses in New Zealand. Organic waste collection companies are experiencing double-digit growth year on year, indicative of the rising popularity of compostable packaging and increased consumer interest in plastic alternatives. Last year alone we replaced over 500,000kgs of plastic packaging with Ecoware plant-based alternatives, all contributions to this growth.
Reusable coffee cups have become a poster child for the anti-plastic movement, but we produce a lot more than cups. We have clear containers, bamboo food boxes, plates and bowls, wooden cutlery, paper straws and more – packaging for all occasions. There are 97 commercial composting facilities in New Zealand, 10 of which can accept Ecoware packaging and food scraps, with a further 8 in trials. The potential for a more sustainable country is there, we just need to keep the momentum going and continue to develop composting.
There are several regions in New Zealand where commercial composting is currently working well. You can read about these success stories on our website, which includes the likes of SKYCITY and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, who are all integrating certified compostable packaging into their sustainability strategy, and commercially composting with waste collectors and local facilities. We still have a long way to go, but compostable packaging can and is working in New Zealand.
Essentially, “waste” no longer needs to be wasted and can be a valuable resource. Our packaging is produced by nature and certified for home and/or commercial composting after use. Our products are made from renewable plant material like bamboo and paper. Ecoware uses IngeoTM bioplastic, a breakthrough innovation that completely replaces traditional plastic with a resin of the same functional properties, but made entirely from plants like corn.
When composted with food scraps, our packaging can be recycled and turned into nutrient-rich compost, great for powering gardens and giving new life to the soil. With healthy topsoil, fruit and veggies are more nutritious, more water can be retained, creating less flooding and runoff into waterways and streams. Composting means that nutrients are reused and continued through the circle of life instead of being lost to landfill. There are so many environmental benefits of composting to be realised.
Although Ecoware specialises in single-use packaging, we couldn’t agree more with the favourite saying “reduce, refuse, reuse and recycle”. Refusing plastic and having reusables are essential, but reusable coffee cups and metal straws are not going to solve the plastic waste problem. They are one piece of the puzzle. This is because there is no all-encompassing remedy for this issue: no one-stop-shop to change the course of our future.
At the end of the day, nothing will ever be perfect. Many solutions are working towards the same goal, none of which will create change overnight. Small steps are all that really matters, and we celebrate everyone and every solution that exists to help people make a difference. We need to work collectively, only then will we fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. This is the way to our end goal of a healthier and more sustainable country for future generations.