First, let’s talk about recycling. Parkside, specialists in sustainable flexible packaging, offer an extensive range of recyclable pack formats. However, there are still many non-recyclable flexible plastic packs flooding the market that are sadly destined only for landfill. Designing a pack with no alternative to landfill after use is an inefficient use of materials and can harm the environment.
Motivated to support UK businesses to innovate towards a brighter, more sustainable future, the UK Plastics Pact created a vision for 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025; and for 70% of plastic packaging to be effectively recycled or composted by 2025. On the upside, according to the UK Plastics Pact, the UK plastic recycling rates increased from 44% in 2018 to 52% by 2020. However, they also state that plastic flexible packaging is one-quarter of all plastic packaging waste, with a meagre 6% currently recycled.
It is important to remember the many merits of plastic flexible packaging. All packaging can be “good for the environment” because it protects and preserves products, often extending the shelf life of many products and reducing wastage. It is also lightweight and, therefore, has a lower carbon footprint than heavier rigid packs. It can achieve efficient product-to-pack ratios, is versatile and ideal for innovative consumer convenience designs such as reclose and dispensing options. Flexible packaging offers standout printability and shelf appeal for product visibility too.
Continued innovation, resource efficiency, and infrastructure improvements are part of the evolution to further improve the circularity of flexible packaging. However, other viable solutions are available today that complement those areas where plastic packaging still needs to be better managed. Compostable packaging is one of those solutions. Sometimes overlooked because it doesn’t fit within a narrow sustainability strategy, compostable materials can be dismissed due to myths about the lack of infrastructure or ability to contaminate existing recycling schemes. However, the infrastructure for certified home and industrial compostable products, like Parkside’s Park2Nature™ range, could be considered more effective than the current rate of flexible packaging recycling in the UK.
According to the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) FAQs, “There are 53 compost plants able to accept food waste and compostable packaging in the UK plus some 170 AD plants, some of whom can accept compostable films. UK composting and AD treats over 5 million tonnes of green and food waste. The infrastructure to treat thousands of tons of bioplastics exists.”
What is critical is that bioplastics and compostable materials undergo rigorous independent testing and accreditation before going on the market, which sadly some unscrupulous manufacturers have avoided due to the required investment, which is not helping the industry accelerate forward.
Park2Nature from Parkside is fully tested and accredited to EN13432 and TÜV standards, providing independent assurance that the laminates will compost in less than 12 weeks at 60°c for industrial composting and 26 weeks in ambient conditions for home composting; turning back into water, carbon dioxide and biomass, and leaving no adverse environmental effects. The compostable range is made from renewable resources such as plant fibres, which reduces short-term reliance on petrochemicals. From cradle to cradle, the packaging materials can be returned to nature after use when properly designed.
Consumers are tired of seeing plastics polluting our oceans and are seeking to control how they dispose of their packaging. Home composting is growing in popularity, with 25% of US households composting at home today. At the same time, consumer demand for compostable packaging in the UK and Europe continues to grow.
Should we continue to innovate for recycling? Yes, and we do, but to meet the packaging waste challenge, we should consider all viable options available to us. To learn more about Parkside’s position on the compostable conundrum, why not listen to Parkside’s Technical Sales Manager, Mark Shaw’s recent talk: The compostable conundrum.pptx – Google Drive