Sustainable Packaging

Too Good To Waste

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Sustainable Packaging

This page provides you with information and a simple checklist for making the most sustainable choices when it comes to packaging to use at home, at events or in your business. There are lots of great packaging options out there and ultimately, we recommend you look online to find the best option for you – but we’ve given you a few ideas to start you off.

First make a list of the packaging and products you use in your house, office or business (for both staff and customers). Doing an audit like this of what goes in the bin is a great place to start!

1. Reusable packaging

Choosing reusable is the best zero waste option, as it reduces waste going to landfill. There’s lots of things you can do – here’s a few to get you started:

2. Recyclable packaging

Where it is not possible to use reusable packaging, use packaging that can be recycled. For example:

  • Bottles and drink cups at events made from 100% recyclable PET plastic
  • Padded envelopes made with mashed paper instead of bubble wrap
  • Anti-stick layers for cold things like salami slices - made from recyclable waxed paper
  • Toilet roll wrapped in paper

Check out this disposable coffee cup recycling guide for all the information you need for on-the-go coffee cup schemes.

3. Compostable packaging

Compostable packaging can be a good option for serving food and drinks at large events IF this packaging is collected separately on site to be sent to a suitable commercial composting facility. If you are a business, talk to your waste management contractor or compostable packaging provider to find out if they can collect compostable packaging. In Edinburgh Vegware provide this collection service for their products.

Why a specific collection?

Compostable packaging must be treated via in-vessel composting to break down completely. However, food waste collected in Scotland is largely sent for anaerobic digestion, which is not able to completely break down compostable packaging. If compostable packaging is sent to an anaerobic digestor it is considered a contaminant and has to be sent to landfill, where it releases greenhouse gases.

What can it be used for?

Compostable packaging can be made from many different materials including sugarcane, cornstarch, potato starch, cellulose, paper, card, bamboo, wood and palm leaves. Different materials can affect their sustainability, and are designed to contain different types of food and drink, for example:

  • Sugar cane (or bagasse) is an alternative to polystyrene boxes/containers and plates
  • Paper/card isn’t as strong as sugar cane but is often a cheaper option and can still be used for a variety of purposes
  • Cornstarch (PLA) is largely suited to cold food and drinks and can be made transparent (e.g. for smoothie cups)
  • Cellulose from renewable wood sources is used to make bio-films for packaging food, and can be sent for anaerobic digestion
  • Palm leaf bowls/plates are very strong, sturdy and unique - no two leaves are the same!
  • Hemp or jute provide alternatives to string

Biopac make a range of compostable products including a ‘doggy bag’, made of wood pulp, which cafes and restaurants can try for free by requesting a Good to Go starter pack from Zero Waste Scotland. Good to Go encourages them to give leftover food on the plate to customers in a ‘doggy bag’ to enjoy at home.

4. Recycled packaging

Where it is not possible to reuse or recycle packaging, instead use items that come in recycled packaging. For example:

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