Category Archives: A&A News

What Does Biodegradable Really Mean

And why it matters for your business

What Does Biodegradable Really Mean

If you’re interested in starting an environmentally sustainable business, you’ll have to think about whether your products or packaging are biodegradable. For such a common term, though, there is plenty of confusion about what it actually means.

So, what does it mean for something to be biodegradable? In basic terms, the definition is simple: If something is biodegradable, then, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to its basic components and blend back in with the earth. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind.

For example, when a plant-based product might break down into carbon dioxide, water, and other naturally occurring minerals, the substance seamlessly mixes back into the earth, leaving no toxins behind. Unfortunately, many materials—even ones with a biodegradable label—do break down in a more harmful manner, leaving chemicals or other damaging substances in the soil.

In terms of environmental benefits, the best biodegradable material will break down quickly rather than taking years. It leaves nothing harmful behind and saves landfill space. Unfortunately, not everything that’s advertised as “biodegradable” meets these criteria. If you’re going to run a green business, you should know how to make sure the materials you use are safely and efficiently biodegradable, as well as accurately labelled.

What Materials Are Biodegradable?

Some items are obviously biodegradable. Examples include food scraps and wood that hasn’t been treated with chemicals to resist bugs and rot. Many other items, such as paper, also biodegrade relatively easily. Some products will biodegrade eventually, but it may take years. This includes steel products, which eventually will rust through and disintegrate, and some plastics.

However, conditions are important to encourage biodegradability. Products that will biodegrade in nature or in home compost heaps may not biodegrade in landfills, where there’s not enough bacteria, light, and water to move the process along.

Biodegradable ≠ Compostable

Many organic companies use biodegradable packaging for products or produce organic biodegradable products, but the items may not be as biodegradable as customers think. To make matters more confusing, many items are labelled as “compostable.”

Compostable products are all biodegradable, but they are specifically intended for a composting environment. In the right setting, these products break down even more quickly, usually within 90 days, and they leave behind a nutrient-rich organic material called humus, which creates a healthy soil environment for new plant growth.

Whether an item is compostable or simply biodegradable, it needs to be placed in an environment that facilitates its breakdown. Compostable products require composting environments. But, even some biodegradable items need to be degraded in a controlled composting environment or facility—and very few of these facilities exist in the United States. These large facilities are designed to keep materials at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 consecutive days.

For example, PLA, a popular biodegradable material for green companies, will only decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a controlled composting environment, not in a backyard composting arrangement, according to standards developed by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

With all of these variables, business owners need to communicate clearly with their customers about what they mean when they say “biodegradable.” Even better are those businesses that take it a step further and educate their customers about how to properly dispose of their products.

Biodegradable Claims on Plastic in California

Businesses operating or selling to customers in California will have an extra impetus to be careful with these terms. California tends to have more stringent regulations involving food and product environmental claims (hence the warning labels stating items have been “found by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm”).

When it comes to biodegradable claims, the state is also out in front with regulations limiting the use of certain terms. For example, in Calfornia, it’s illegal to sell any plastic item, or any item with plastic packaging, that includes a label stating it’s “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “decomposable,” “compostable” or “marine degradable” (or any alternate form of those terms).

It’s also illegal in the state to sell a plastic product labeled “home compostable” (or some equivalent claim) unless the manufacturer holds a Vincotte OK Compost HOME certificate. Vincotte is a Belgium-based inspection and certification organization. Finally, the state bans the use of potentially misleading marketing terms, such as “environmentally friendly,” when they’re applied to plastic products and packaging.

Use Terms Carefully

Whether you’re doing business in California or not, it’s wise to be thorough in planning your sustainable business. After all, terms like “biodegradable” are only meaningful if using them actually helps the environment. And that’s the goal for more and more business owners today.

Box Branding Opportunity

At A&A Packaging we offer a box branding opportunity, which is so important in today’s competitive ‘stand out’ market.

Box Branding Opportunity

Brand consistency, recognition, and perception can be exceptionally important.

A crucial part of this for many companies is their packaging. From transit packaging with simple one colour logos to retail packaging with photographic imagery, your packaging can become an extension of your brand identity.

Using printed boxes is a great way to impress your customers and give them extra confidence in the quality of your product. A printed packaging box can create an exciting, positive image, which helps build up brand awareness. And as they provide further potential for brand recognition, customised boxes are a low cost but highly effective form of advertising.

At A&A Packaging we believe our team can offer the best box branding opportunity from the product design to after-sale service!

Call or Email our friendly sales team to discuss branding your packaging, in a powerful and cost-effective way.

Magnum launch tubs made from recycled plastic

Unilever has launched Magnum ice cream in tubs made from recycled polypropylene plastic packaging – a first in the ice cream industry.

Magnum launch tubs made from recycled plastic

Up to 600,000 tubs are now available across Europe, with millions more to roll out globally.

The move is part of Unilever’s wider global commitment to ensure that at least 25% of its plastic packaging will come from post-consumer recycled content by 2025.

Julien Barraux, vice president Magnum, said: “We are proud to be one of the world’s first food brands to pioneer this ground-breaking technology.”

The tubs are available in Belgium, Spain and The Netherlands, with over three million more due to be launched globally in 2020.

McDonald’s to cut plastic packaging

McDonald’s UK is to remove single-use plastics from its salads range and plastic lids from all McFlurry ice creams, in a drive to reduce plastic packaging.

McDonald's

All main meal and side salads will be served in 100% renewable and recyclable cardboard containers instead of single-use plastic.

Changing out the existing plastic bowl, shaker salad cups and lids will result in 102 metric tons of plastic being removed annually.

McDonald's

The fast-food giant is also ditching plastic lids from all McFlurry ice creams from September which it said will reduce plastic waste by 383 metric tonnes annually.

The new salad and meal containers are made from carton board which contains 50% recycled content and 50% new, which itself comes from certified sustainable sources.

The coating on the containers, designed to keep them rigid, is also 100% renewable.

In total, the new packaging across the McFlurry and salads range will reduce plastic waste by 485 metric tonnes annually, said McDonald’s.

Beth Hart, Supply Chain Director, McDonald’s UK & Ireland said: “Removing plastic lids from the McFlurry, and introducing new cardboard packaging for salads, will save nearly 500 metric tonnes of plastic a year. It’s the latest step in our sustainability journey.

“We are committed to listening to our customers and finding solutions with our suppliers that work for them, this is the latest example of that – but by no means the end. We continue to look for solutions for our cutlery and lids, for example, but this is great progress. For us, sustainability is about more than just packaging. We have to look at the whole journey – by 2030 we’re committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36%.”

Waitrose launches home compostable ready meal packaging

Waitrose has launched what it says is the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging as it aims to move nine million products out of black plastic.

Waitrose launches home compostable ready meal packaging

Working with Huhtamaki, the new containers, which are fibre based and similar in texture to cardboard, are now certified home compostable for the first time.

Its suppliers Huhtamaki and Saladworks produced the packaging which can be heated in the oven and microwave and is cool to touch after cooking. The fiber-based packaging is Forest Stewardship Council certified, creates a 50% saving in Co2 emissions, and can also be recycled.

The packaging innovation will initially replace many of the retailer’s Italian ready meal trays, saving 158 tonnes of black plastic.

Karen Graley, manager, packaging & reprographics, Waitrose & Partners, said: “Pioneering the first home compostable ready meal packaging that ensures customers can continue to cook their food quickly, safely, and now more sustainably, is a major breakthrough in packaging innovation. This step – combined with moving millions of ready meals out of black plastic – is a significant milestone in how we package food and eliminate hard to recycle material for good.”

The new Italian ready meal packaging will be available in Waitrose & Partners shops at the end of this month and will include Chilli Prawn Spaghetti, Broccoli Orecchiette, and Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Bake.