Vegware launches post-back service to encourage effective packaging composting

Selection of compostable Vegware coffee cups
RecycleBox aims to make correct disposal and suitable composting of Vegware packaging more accessible across the UK
Compostable food-service packaging producer, Vegware, has joined forces with recycling company First Mile to allow businesses and consumers who use its products to return them to be sent on to suitable composting facilities through First Mile's national courier-led recycling service 'RecycleBox'.

Vegware customers will now be able to put used Vegware disposables back in the cardboard box they came in (or order one from First Mile), and then book a collection online to return the box to First Mile, which will then coordinate delivery to Vegware’s approved facility.

The postal service is a development upon current collection schemes to make composting more accessible to companies across the country as demand for plastic alternatives continues to rise.

With increasing concern over single-use plastics, many food and drink businesses (and even the UK Parliament) are seeking more environmentally-friendly options for their packaging, opting for brands described as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable.’

‘Compostable’ is one of a number of unclear terms used around packaging, making it tricky for members of the public to know how to dispose correctly of different items. Take-away packaging described as ‘compostable’ cannot be put into kerbside recycling or home compost bins and must be sent to industrial composting facilities, where they can break down in under 12 weeks.

Over the years collection schemes have been set up to aid correct disposal of compostable packaging, however it has not always been widely available across the country, meaning many businesses and consumers choose compostable products with good intentions but do not end up disposing of them appropriately.

Read more: Cut the confusion on compostables

Existing collection schemes include ‘Close the Loop’, Vegware’s programme whereby the company picks up used packaging from signed-up businesses and takes them to suitable composting facilities. Close the Loop was launched in Scotland and expanded to Gloucester, Worcester and, most recently, Bristol.

Bristol’s Composting Collective was also launched in November 2018, where the city’s independent cafes can collect Vegware for composting. Participating businesses display a window sticker advertising that they accept Vegware products so that consumers can deposit their items in a dedicated bin that will then be collected by Vegware and taken to be composted.

While these collection schemes have improved the amount of compostable items being successfully processed, the locations are still limited. Vegware and First Mile’s RecycleBox collaboration will allow more companies in other locations across the country to make sure their used packaging is correctly disposed of.

Commenting on the new service, Vegware’s Environmental and Communications Director Lucy Frankel said: “First Mile’s RecycleBox service now creates full UK post-back coverage for used Vegware to access suitable waste infrastructure. Over two dozen UK facilities accept our compostable products, and trade collections for used Vegware now cover 38 per cent of UK postcodes, up from two per cent in 2012 when we started working with the waste sector. We introduced First Mile to a facility who had tested and approved Vegware products in their process, and see RecycleBox as an innovative solution for individuals and foodservice businesses throughout the UK.”

First Mile founder and CEO Bruce Bratley added: “We’re delighted to be working alongside Vegware to ensure that its customers’ compostable packaging is effectively recycled.

“There’s no doubt that the popularity of compostable packaging is on the increase as consumers look for an alternative to conventional plastic. However, the waste industry has been much slower to react, making it hard – and almost impossible in some locations – to ensure that used products end up in the correct facility to be recycled properly. With the help of our RecycleBox, Vegware customers across the country can now confidently and easily recycle their items.”

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