Plastic Recycling is broken

Plastic Recycling is broken

For a long time, our economy has been ‘linear’. This means that raw materials are used to make a product, and after its use any waste (e.g. packaging) is disposed of in landfill or incinerated. Since 1964 plastic production has increased twenty-fold, yet just 5% of plastics are recycled effectively. The plastics that are recycled can only be recycled once or twice before ending up in a landfill which can take centuries to breakdown, or ending up in incineration which emits 33 percent more fossil CO2 (Learn more here) than gas fired power stations.

The take, make, dispose, method of manufacturing means that the raw materials and any waste associated with the production process are disposed of instead. While a linear economy produces a huge amount of unwanted, and sometimes dangerous landfill waste, it also puts a lot of pressure on the world’s plummeting resources as new raw materials need to be found and utilised.

To transition to a circular economy means preventing waste in the first place by using by-products like bagasse. If new raw materials are needed, they must be obtained sustainably so that natural and human environments are not damaged. At decent we ensure all manufacturing processes are carried out with a circular economy in mind and believe the most viable solution for single-use disposable packaging is a full cycle, organic recycling solution.

Compostable packaging waste can integrate into the organic waste system producing nutrient rich fertiliser from the composting process. We’ve partnered with First Mile to collect and compost everything from decent cups and cutlery, to decent takeaway lunch boxes. The packaging is put into an autoclave which is similar to a very high temperature pressure cooker. This process expedites the breaking down of the compostable packaging materials, and then these materials go through the standard Anaerobic Digestion process (usually used for food), which produces fertiliser, and the methane produced during the decomposition process is burned to produce green energy.

The products of compost: Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen make up 99% of all organic molecules - the building blocks of all life. Will your salad container be repurposed into cos lettuce? Forget the rigidity of classic recycling, composting is part of the infinite, circular, cycle of natural life. More coffee cups were composted in New Zealand (where decent originates from) last year than have ever been recycled.

Our sister company Innocent Packaging in New Zealand launched The Full Package two years ago, adding 150 compost bins to Auckland CBD. The feedback was so positive that it grew to 300 over 6 weeks.

Recycling has never been a solution for disposable food packaging. To be recycled the product has to be uncontaminated by food, and it’s not so easy getting all the salad dressing off your lunch box. Products with two different materials closely bonded like Coffee Cups are extremely difficult to recycle with the two materials having to be separated, a task currently beyond the scope of recycling. Recycling can work well for cans and glass if you wash them before adding to your recycle bin. But single use plastics and disposable food packages wreak havoc on the industry.

We aim to implement such a method in the mainstream market launching The Full Package in East London with 20 cafes. This will be the first compostable collection network of it’s kind in London, collecting both food and compostable packaging waste.

Keep an eye out for our bins across London.

Click here to get set up with a Full Package bin. 

To arrange a collection with First Mile email and quote The Full Package project.




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