Experts advise UK Government to back compostable packaging

A new report published by environmental consultancy Ricardo Energy has called upon the Government to support an increase in compostable packaging, in order to increase food waste recycling and reduce plastic contamination in organic waste streams.

Envar Composting LtdThe report quizzed experts from across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, with all respondents agreeing that conventional plastic packaging poses a challenge to organic waste streams.

72 per cent of respondents stated compostable packaging would help increase the amount of food waste captured and would decrease plastic contamination.

The report also found 82 per cent of respondents believe compostable materials would help to reduce plastic contamination across organic waste streams.

As badly contaminated food waste is currently sent to landfill or incineration, it is hoped that increasing the use of compostable packaging would reduce the amount of plastic contamination and therefore lead to less incineration, which would prevent the release of harmful gases such as methane.

The Government has pledged to eliminate food waste from landfill by 2030. Following the release of this report, experts have supported the promotion of compostable packaging as a way to meet this target.

David Newman, Managing Director of Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) said: “Reducing plastic contamination in organic waste streams and promoting food waste recycling must be a government priority if it is to reach its 2030 target for emissions reductions and the 2035 target for recycling.

“We know compostable materials are the correct way of ensuring food waste is collected and treated without plastic contamination. But we’re still behind on the legislation needed to ensure these materials have the support they need.

“It’s more important than ever that the Government assesses its position on compostables or it risks missing its much-needed food waste recycling aims.”

Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO and co-founder of biodegradable plastic packaging manufacturers TIPA added: “This report further highlights the crucial role compostable packaging will play in achieving the Government’s ambitious targets for recycling food waste.”

The report arrives as the UK Government works towards its commitment of rolling out separate household food waste collections for all local authorities across the country by 2023, in a bid to up food waste recycling, composting rates and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report suggests that this will increase the use of food waste for positive purposes such as use as natural fertiliser.

However, the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has recently shown concerns that not enough government funding is in place to help local authorities reach the 2023 target.

Politicians have responded to the report’s findings by showing support for compostable material as a means for encouraging effective recycling and minimising the cross-contamination.

Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, commented: "The Government's commitment to promoting food waste recycling is key if we are to stop sending this waste to landfill and incineration when it could - and should - be recycled.

“But these targets require contaminating plastic to be taken out of the equation. Compostable materials offer a solution, and it's crucial that the Government recognises this.”