Category Archives: environment

Why soils matter

Soils and climate change

Poor soils fuel climate change. There is three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere, and this carbon is released in land degradation.

Land degradation is the process by which the quality of the land is affected by human activity.  According the recent Global Assessment carried out by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), land degradation is responsible for annual global emissions of up to 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2. It releases carbon stored in the soil and it effects the growth of plants, reducing their intake of carbon from the atmosphere.

IPBES’s Global Assessment states that, unless we reduce and reverse land degradation, it is projected that by 2050:

  • 50% of wild creatures will be lost,
  • human migration of people from the driest lands will rise,
  • and crop yields may reduce by up to 50% in some regions.

Addressing land degradation and climate change

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change targeted a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° above pre-industrial levels. Tackling land degradation could provide over 1/3 of the most cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation activities needed by 2030 to achieve this goal.

Climate change and land degradation should be addressed together with similar urgency.

According to IPBES:

“Urgent action must be taken to halt, reduce and reverse land degradation. The longer we delay the more costly and difficult restoration becomes. The cost of inaction is at least three times higher than the cost of action. And the benefits of land restoration are many times more valuable than the costs.”

Toil for soil

Among other actions, Vegware believes we can take steps to reduce soil loss and improve soil health in crop lands. Composting used Vegware returns nutrients to the soil, and has the added benefit of improving soil structure, reducing the risk of floods. Our US Zero Waste Director connects clients to local composting collectors and commercial composting facilities, so that used Vegware can be composted with food scraps. Get in touch to learn more.

Compost Manufacturing Alliance officially approves Vegware for quality compost

Vegware announces today it has received the Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) approval on a wide range of its plant-based compostable foodservice packaging. This provides official recognition and acceptance of the Vegware products as compostable by both CMA-I facilities and Cedar Grove’s covered processing system.

Testing compostables


The CMA and its affiliated partner, Cedar Grove Composting in Washington State, field testing results demonstrate that products manufactured by Vegware are acceptable in operations and processes.

The CMA is a partnership of the top U.S. compost manufacturers, providing field validation of compostable feed stocks within real world processing technologies. Cedar Grove Composting is a Seattle-based, family-owned business producing nutrient-rich compost.

As composting collections and processing grows in the US and globally, ensuring foodservice packaging works as feedstock in modern large-scale composting facilities is essential. This way, operations at each step of the organics recycling process runs smoothly.

Vegware approved

This official recognition allows access to the CMA “Composter Approved” logo. The “Composter Approved” logo signals nationwide processing opportunities to create quality compost from Vegware’s wide range of plant-based compostable foodservice packaging.

Continue reading

Trinidad and Tobago government ban Styrofoam packaging

Vegware welcomes news that the government of Trinidad and Tobago have approved a ban on polysterene foam products, such as Styrofoam, which will be implemented in 2019.

Banning Styrofoam imports

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says the importation of ‘Styrofoam’ products into the country will be banned. Local polystyrene manufacturers have been given time to make their products environmentally friendly.

Building on change

This builds on action taken in Tobago, where the Tobago House Assembly (THA) passed a motion to phase out polystyrene foam products.

The THA is currently working with the Castara Tourism Association to make the idyllic holiday destination Castara the first Styrofoam-free village in the country.

The Caribbean island of Dominica also implements a ban on Styrofoam cups and containers in 2019, as well as on plastic plates, cups, cutlery and straws.

Packaging tax

THA official Linford Beckles suggested there was also a need to address the tax on imported packaging. He said while there are currently, “No taxes on Styrofoam products coming into Trinidad and Tobago,” there are taxes on, “Environmentally friendly alternatives.”

Beckles said the THA is looking at two alternatives to replace the Styrofoam, one is bagasse-based and the other is corn-based.

Vegetarian Pelau box from Aunty Cathy’s Kitchen, Freeport who already use Vegware packaging

How Vegware can help

Our tableware and takeaway boxes are made from bagasse, reclaimed sugarcane, and make an excellent eco alternative to  polysterene foam . Vegware already supply several catering outlets in Trinidad and Tobago. We look forward to working with more restaurants, cafes and on-site catering in the switch to eco-friendly polysterene foam alternatives.

Hobart becomes first Australian city to ban single-use plastic

Hobart City Council has voted to ban single-use plastic by 2020.  Businesses within the Hobart municipality will need to start phasing out single-use plastics in favour of re-usable or compostable packaging.

Vegware is delighted to hear of this first step in Australia, and our operational base in Sydney is poised to support clients transition to compostable packaging.

The city will have a period of public and legislative consultation before enacting the by-law either by late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest. Single-use plastic items such as plastic containers, straws, coffee cups, plastic lids and condiment sachets are on the list to be banned.  

Small but significant step

Environment Tasmania Director Philip Cocker said the proposed ban was a small but significant step in environmental sustainability for the city.

“I am sure all Hobart businesses will be able to implement the by-law with positive effects on their businesses,” he said in a statement.

This single-use plastic ban is one way to combat low plastic recycling rates. A new study by the University of Technology Sydney, NSW, has found that Australia is recycling less than one third of its plastic packaging waste. Meaning that reducing single-use plastic is vital.

Vegware packaging at Sush restaurant, Hobart

Businesses already on-board

Some Hobart businesses have already chosen to go plastic-free. Vegware customer Sush, a Hobart sushi restaurant, already has its own ban on single-use plastic containers. As Trish Haeusler, from Plastic Free Launceston, says, “A lot of small businesses are already onto this [re-usable or compostable packaging] because they know customers are demanding it.”

Expanding the ban

Councillor Bill Harvey – who led the charge against single-use plastic – says that this new by-law shows, “That we’re serious about leading by example and this is one of those decisions that will have impacts for councils across Australia.”

Hobart City Council has written to Environment Minister Elise Archer to request the State Government implement a state-wide plastic ban.

Watch this space!

Barbados businesses urged to get on board with plastic ban

The Government of Barbados proposes banning imported single-use plastics and foam polystyrene (Styrofoam) packaging. This action follows the recent wave of legislation against foam polystyrene  in the Caribbean.

Single-use plastics under import ban

From 1st April, 2019, imported single-use plastics, such as cutlery, stirrers, straws, plates, egg trays, and polystyrene containers used in the culinary retail industry will be banned.  There are a number of plant-based alternatives available to petro-based single-use plastics.

Vegware attends plastic-free Expo

Vegware Global Business Development Executive, Simone Muhlack, was at BICO’s Eco-Pak Biodegradable Expo at Cricket Legends, Fontabelle, St Michael. This Expo came in advance of the Government’s proposed ban set to take effect on April 1, as an opportunity to showcase the wide variety of environmentally-friendly packaging. BICO are a longstanding supporter of Vegware and distribute the plant-based packaging alongside their ice-cream business.

BICO support plastic-free packaging

At the Expo, BICO’s Executive Chairman Edwin Thirlwell said, “we must do what we can to reduce plastic contamination.” He noted that while plastic-free packaging alternatives might seem more expensive than the traditional plastic and polystyrene containers, the damage and cost of the latter are much greater in the long run. BICO introduced plant-based Vegware packaging back in 2016, as an eco-friendly alternative plant-based option for foodservice.

Kammie Holder, Public Relations Officer of the Future Centre Trust, said the proposed ban on plastics is timely and necessary. 

Vegware also welcomes this news from The Government of Barbados. We look forward to helping support caterers in their transition to plastic-free food and drink packaging.

Read Barbados news

All about PLA & CPLA – compostable bioplastics made from plant starches

At Vegware, we manufacture our catering disposables from a variety of plant-based materials. We use paper, board and pulp, but the big difference is that we don’t use conventional plastics.

Our cups still need to be leakproof, and our clients still want clear windows, so we use compostable bioplastics – compostable materials derived from plant sources.

A compostable lunch: PLA cold cups and portion pots, PLA linings in our hot cups, and CPLA coffee lids and cutlery

What is PLA?

PLA is a compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars. PLA stands for polylactic acid. It can be made from any sugar, such as corn starch, cassava, sugar cane, or sugar beet. NatureWorks is the world’s largest producer of PLA, and a key partner to Vegware. Industrial corn is the primary source crop at the moment, but NatureWorks are working actively to diversify feedstocks, investigating other fibrous non-food crops, or even creating lactic acid from carbon dioxide or methane.

NatureWorks refer to their PLA under the Ingeo brand, and offer full information online on how it is made, and end of life options.

Vegware PLA compostable bioplastic biodegradable

How PLA is made

Corn plants are milled to extract the starch, in the form of glucose. The glucose is then fermented to produce lactic acid. Next up, a chemical process transforms the lactic acid into a polymer, which can be made into pellets, known in the industry as resin.

Just like a conventional plastic resin, the PLA pellets can be used in a variety of ways – extruded into a sheet or film, injection moulded, cast into sheets, or spun into fibres. PLA has a huge range of applications, but at Vegware we use it for:

  • PLA-coated board for paper cups and soup containers
  • Clear cold cups, salad containers, deli and portion pots, and lids for a variety of products
  • Clear windows in sandwich wedges, salad boxes and bags

    PLA pellets ready for a variety of uses

CPLA – crystallised PLA for higher heat use

PLA has a low melt point, so is best for cold use up to around 40ºC or 105ºF. Where more heat resistance is needed such as in cutlery, or lids for coffee or soup, we use a crystallised form. This involves adding chalk to the PLA to act as a catalyst, and then rapidly heating and cooling the PLA resin during production. The result is a product which is heat stable to 90ºC or 194ºF. Vegware’s CPLA products are still suitable for industrial composting, in either in-vessel or open windrow composting.

CPLA is crystallised PLA, for hotter uses like coffee lids or cutlery

Corn for food, feed AND industrial uses

The industrial corn used to make NatureWorks Ingeo PLA is non-food-grade, so it is not competing with food for human consumption. The whole plant is harvested, and every part of it is used. The protein and starch have many different uses:

  • the plant-based proteins are used to make animal feed;
  • the starch has many industrial uses, including in airbags, corrugated cardboard, recycled paper, pharmaceuticals, condoms, oil refining and drilling…and making PLA.

Read more information on food and bioplastics from NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of PLA.

All of the corn plant is used, creating animal feed and many industrial products

Sustainable growing practices

The corn plants are grown using sustainable farming practices, without excessive pesticides and water use. In the same way that FSC can prove the sustainability of timber production, NatureWorks has independent ISCC PLUS certification – more info here. This in-depth scheme demonstrates the sustainable growing practices for the plants used by NatureWorks to make PLA:

  1. No sourcing from land with high biodiversity, high carbon stock or from peatland (2008 as the reference year).
  2. Agricultural practices (fertilizer & pesticide use, storage, disposal, tillage practices, equipment calibration, irrigation)
  3. Environmental protection (protect natural vegetation & water courses, soil erosion, soil organic matter)
  4. Social sustainability (child labour, workers protection, labour condition, land rights, training, water rights)
  5. Greenhouse gas emissions on farm level.

Implementing this scheme has involved helping farmers to alter their growing practices for greater sustainability.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable

PLA – which waste stream?

Vegware’s compostable catering disposables can biodegrade in under 12 weeks in commercial composting, which provides the perfect balance of microbes, moisture and warmth. Our Environmental team offer our clients unparalleled zero waste support – see point 2 in our Composting FAQ.

Where there is no access to industrial composting, used Vegware should be put in general waste. Vegware’s takeaway packaging is made from plants, not plastic, using lower carbon, renewable or recycled materials, and these sustainability benefits still apply no matter what happens to them after use.

  • Used Vegware should NOT be placed in standard recycling bins which collect paper, plastics and metals, as those materials go to a different type of sorting facility. Another reason is that food waste harms the quality of mechanical recycling – the same applies to any used foodservice disposables.
  • General waste goes to either incineration or landfill. If Vegware is incinerated, energy is produced. Incineration studies from NatureWorks, a key materials supplier of ours, show that their PLA bioplastic produces more heat than newspaper, wood or food waste; also that it produces no volatile gases and leaves little residue. Some in the waste sector prefer plant-based materials over conventional plastics as they give off fewer toxic gases.
  • In landfill, studies have shown that compostable packaging is inert and does not give off methane.
  • Please do not litter – compostable packaging is not expected to break down when discarded in the environment, and is not a solution to marine pollution.
  • Home composting conditions vary with the skill of the householder, so we don’t make any claims there, but there have been successful trials using hot compost bins.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable plastic

PLA – not a threat to plastics recycling

Compared to conventional plastics, bioplastics currently represent a tiny fraction of packaging, so it is not currently economical to sort PLA from other waste streams. If there is a major increase in bioplastics volumes, then waste sorting facilities can be calibrated to recognise and sort bioplastics using near-infrared identification. As well as composting, PLA is suitable for mechanical recycling into new PLA, as practised by Looplife Polymers in Belgium.

Studies have shown that low levels of bioplastics do not harm plastics recycling. German and Italian researchers have found there was no reduction to quality, up to these levels:

  • Up to 3% PLA in post-consumer PP plastic recyclate (1)
  • Up to 10% PLA in PS plastic re-granulates (1)
  • Up to 1-2% PLA in recycled PET plastic short-spinning plant (2)
  • Up to 10% MaterBi in the recycling of PE plastic shopping bags (2)

This information comes from (1) the report PLA in the Waste Stream, a report initiated by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture. And (2) from CONAI, the National Packaging Consortium of Italy: Working Group Biodegradable Packaging Recovery Project report, 2012.

We don’t encourage anyone to put PLA into plastics recycling, but these studies offer comfort to plastics reprocessors, who are understandably keen to maintain quality.

International Compost Awareness Week 6-12th May Vegware’s guide to compostable packaging

To celebrate International Compost Awareness Week, we’ve put together this handy Vegware guide to our compostable packaging.

Why use compostable food packaging?
For disposables destined to meet food, it makes sense to use materials that can be recycled together with food. High-quality compost feeds the fields, to grow more food. Yum.

Why isn’t conventional packaging actually recycled?
Recyclables+Food = NOT RECYCLABLE. Used packaging is a mix of materials contaminated with food, and goes to incineration or landfill because it can’t be recycled.

Do plant-based materials work as well as plastic?
Yes, or even better! Bagasse (made from recycled sugarcane fibre) takeout boxes keep heat in but don’t trap condensation like plastic. No more soggy fries. Continue reading

Vegware and marine plastic pollution

A light has been shone on the damage humans are causing to our oceans. Everyone at Vegware shares the public’s sadness at the devastating effects of marine pollution. The pitfalls of plastics have been laid bare, and everyone is looking for solutions. While Vegware’s plant-based disposables are designed to replace oil-based plastics in a foodservice setting, compostable packaging is not the solution to marine pollution. Here’s why.

In summary:

  • Compostable packaging is not designed to break down in a marine environment
  • Waste needs to be disposed of properly, and we support any initiative that boosts recycling and reduces littering
  • Vegware provides a category-wide solution for zero waste in a foodservice environment with managed waste streams

Compostable packaging and the marine environment

Vegware’s catering disposables are designed to break down in under 12 weeks in commercial composting. We hold independent compostability certification and have conducted extensive trials in organics recycling facilities. Successful composting requires warmth, oxygen, microbes and moisture – perfect conditions which are created at industrial composting facilities and in on-site composting systems.

A marine environment however is different, and does not provide the right conditions for compostables to break down. Vegware is against littering in any environment, on land or at sea. We have not tested our products in the sea, and our products do not solve the issue of marine pollution.

At Vegware, we play a positive, active role encouraging zero waste. Our environmental team helps our clients capture used packaging and set up recycling schemes, diverting used Vegware and food waste to commercial composting.

We are pleased that sustainability is at the forefront of public debate, and fully support efforts to protect the environment. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these important issues.

biodegradable compostable zero waste california berkeley recycling cal athletics

Go Bears! Vegware supports Cal’s Pac–12 Zero Waste Bowl

California Memorial Stadium hosts the Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl this Saturday October 21st. And Vegware is proud to support with our eco disposables.

Vegware’s compostable serviceware will be used throughout the luxury suites this Saturday. All our foodservice cups, cutlery, plates, bowls and containers are made from plants, not plastic. After the game, off it goes for composting together with food scraps, to help feed American soil and nurture future generations of plants.

The California Golden Bears host the Arizona Wildcats. And here’s the film that fans will see on the stadium video board!

Let’s Protect Bear Territory! Cal Zero Waste is leading great green partnerships to protect the planet too. UC Berkeley is all about sustainability, and Vegware is so proud to be supporting this fantastic initiative.

What’s the Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl?

It’s a fun challenge where Pac-12 universities compete to divert the most waste from landfill at a selected home game.

In addition to overall waste diversion rate, the universities are scored on innovation, partnership and participation, and fan engagement. We love what UC Berkeley is doing!

If you’re on twitter, follow @CalAthletics #AZvsCAL and of course @CalZeroWaste! Follow the game live on Pac-12 Networks and KGO 810 AM.

Cal 💚 Zero Waste

Want to know how crazy UC Berkeley is about zero waste? Here’s a film about the Recyclemania Game Day Recycling Challenge 2015 – what amazing engagement throughout the Cal community!

Vegware is also delighted to support the UC Berkeley’s Chou Hall Zero Waste Project. We’ll write more about that soon!