NEWS: 'Compostable is a confusing term'

A plant-based packaging expert is warning that confusion around ‘compostable’ packaging could lead to an increase in 'eco-littering'.

The study of 2,000 UK consumers by RawPac found consumers are 'confused by environmentally-friendly food and drink packaging labelling and are losing patience with the lack of recycling options available to them'.

The study found 38% of respondents had to remove compostable packaging from their home compost bin 'because it didn’t break down - without realising that this kind of packaging must be dealt with at specialist recycling facilities'.

Of those questioned, 18 per cent said they ‘don’t see much benefit’ in recycling their packaging as ‘it ends up in landfill anyway’ and 29% regularly put their compostable food and drink packaging in normal public litter bins.

Owner of Manchester-based RawPac Tim Wilson believes 'consumers want plastic-free packaging, but are becoming frustrated at the lack of public composting facilities and confused by mixed messages about what they can and can’t do with take-away food packaging and coffee cups'.

He said: "Home composting isn’t suitable for most ‘compostable’ food and drink packaging. This sort of packaging requires a commercial composting facility for it to break down.

"Consumers can be forgiven for being confused. After all, it often says ‘compostable’ on the packaging. That’s why we’ve started calling our products ‘plant-based’, rather than ‘compostable’. It manages expectations.

“The industry is working hard to improve packaging and lower the environmental impact of convenience food and drink, but consumers are clearly frustrated at what they perceive to be a lack of facilities.

“Even if plant-based packaging goes to landfill, it is better for the environment as it breaks down naturally over time, something which normal paper cups don’t do because of the waterproof coating used.

"The fact that a significant amount of consumers think that ‘sending to landfill’ is a bad thing in and of itself suggests we could all be doing more to educate people on the benefits of plant-based food and drink packaging.

“One thing that really frustrates our customers is the lack of consistency across local authorities. With some authorities you can recycle certain things that others won’t let you. And that applies to green waste too, which requires better provision from local authorities and better awareness among consumers.”

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