“Plastic Action” is the name of the Birchall Foodservice programme to control single use plastics and support the UN Clean Seas international campaign.

Caterers are being urged to ‘do their bit’ and get involved in the global battle against plastic pollution. It’s time to take drastic action: Plastic Action!

Consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and expect traders to have answers. We hope our input will assist you in your decision-making and enable you to better address your customers’ queries and concerns.

'More questions than answers! but we need to start considering these matters'

BIODEGRADABLE PLASTICS?

This article helps remedy the misconceptions surrounding 'biodegradable plastics' and the processes involved in successful biodegradation. You may see plastic advertised as 'biodegradable', but in reality this simply isn't the case. 

However, this doesn't mean that there aren't more environmentally responsible alternatives on the market. Below is our guide to what we believe are the more environmentally viable options and our reasons why.

AVOID 'biodegradable plastic': Biodegradable plastic is constructed from PLA (Poly-lactic acid) which is a derivative of genetically modified maize. It isn't unusual to find products that are made from such materials to be marketed as 'biodegradable', however when the products are exposed to conditions such as those found in the sea, landfill or even your compost heap, the biodegradation process simply cannot take place. Furthermore, there aren't currently any specialised composting facilities in the UK that will accept these kinds of products. In addition to this, the issue is further exacerbated as this material contaminates regular plastic recycling, causing whole batches to be sent to landfill. 

AVOID 'degradable' plastic: Often falsely marketed as 'biodegradable', oxy-degradable, and photo-degradable plastics, these 'degradable plastics' are simply regular plastics with the addition of chemicals, to assist breaking it down into smaller pieces. With the problem of micro plastics becoming clearer, it is surely better to keep the item in one piece. Our best advice is to avoid them all together. 

Other Plastic: Polypropylene (type 5) and Crystal Polystyrene (type 6) are used to make most other single-use plastic glasses. While these plastics are not as sought after as PET, they are clean, uncoloured, single material plastic and will be readily accepted in mixed recycling. Polypropylene remains the most inexpensive, while crystal polystyrene remains the only option for stemware. 

COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING
COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING

Plant or 'Veg' based disposables are ideal for large venue take-away catering (e.g. stadiums, festivals) where used products can be collected and forwarded for composting.

Plant based catering disposables are designed to break down in commercial composting. Successful composting requires warmth, oxygen, microbes and moisture - perfect conditions which are created at industrial composting facilities and in on-site composting systems.

'So if used take-away packaging is unlikely to go to composting, what happens if it goes to landfill?'

LANDFILL

In landfill, conditions and actually designed to prevent materials breaking down. By restricting moisture and oxygen, microbial activity is reduced.

When organic materials break down in landfill they emit methane, so landfills are designed to stop this.

 

What to replace plastics with is a question that refuses to go away - not least because no one has an answer.

 

However , what we do know that we didn't last month is how to categorise plastics new system has split the products into groups based on the length of time they are used:

 

1. Very short phase (less than one day) small format e.g. cotton buds, plastic stirrers.

2. Very short phase (less than one day) medium format e.g. disposable cups, takeaway containers.

3. Short use phase (from one day up to two years) e.g. food packaging.

Country Range changes in packaging on Ice Cream range

In July, Country our own Brand is changing from black to silver tubs for all Country Range Ice Cream's packaging in an effort to move towards recyclable plastic.

These products are:

Country Range Dairy Vanilla Ice Cream

Country Range Dairy Triple Chocolate Ice Cream

Country Range Diary Strawberry Ice Cream

Country Range Diary Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Myth Busting on drinks packaging

Key information on Black Plastic Packaging

Where plastic packaging is required to be coloured, WRAP encourages packaging

specifiers and manufacturers to use detectable colourants. 

The majority of conventional black plastic packaging is coloured using carbon black

pigments which do not enable the pack to be sorted using Near Infra­Red (NIA) technology widely used in plastics recycling. As a result, black plastic packaging commonly ends up as residue and is disposed of in landfill or incinerated. 

In food packaging, the use of clear plastic is encouraged since clear plastic can be recycled back into clear plastic or coloured plastic. Black plastic is often used for packaging because it enables colours or imperfections to be masked, however because of the use of carbon black pigments it is then not recycled .. Over the years WRAP has worked in partnership with key players in the retail supply chain to address this issue. The work has covered: 

  • The range of potential solutions - different sorting technologies and colouration systems

  • The masking strength of detectable colourants

  • Ability to sort detectable black and end markets - black PET plastics and black polypropylene

  • An in-market trial to prove closed loop recycling for cPET trays

Until sorting equipment is readily available to sort black plastic into correct polymer streams, tackling the issue is a two-stage process. Packaging needs to be designed to be detectable and NIA equipment may require some fine­tuning in order for the plastic to be sorted for recycling. WRAP is now developing guidance on this for packaging specifiers/manufacturers and recyclers as well as confirming any impact on end markets for PET if black were to be sorted in the jazz stream (research has already concluded that this is not an issue for polyolefins (PP or HDPE)). 

Through The UK Plastics Pact, WRAP aims for the majority of black plastic to be produced using detectable black and for this to be widely sorted for recycling by the end of 2019. 

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