In today’s green/ecologically aware climate I thought a blog about our green credentials and the ‘green’ products available might be of interest, particularly as many companies (online companies at least) have specific sections of their business websites devoted to letting us all know how much they are saving the planet buy using their products.
We don’t shout about it as much, however all our Paper Banquet Rolls and Paper Table Cloths are manufactured from 100% recycled material and our Vending and Non-Vending cups are recyclable and can be collected by schemes set up by save-a-cup who turn the used cups into pens, key rings, rulers and such.
We don’t shout about so much because pretty much everything
we sell can be recycled so there seems little point creating a separate page with every product we sell listed again!
One of the changes we are also starting to see are new ‘green products’ starting to be marketed, notably PLA lined paper cups and biodegradable corn starch catering disposables which are all ‘derived from natural sustainable resources.’
We are told these products will all biodegrade and are the future of the catering disposables market, and food packaging generally.
Many companies play on peoples’ consciences to buy these products and blind people with science. The truth is that some of these products can create more waste and do more harm than good.
Putting aside the puzzling fact that parts of the world are felling trees to create space to grow crops to meet our demand for low CO2 produced products and bio fuels, using PLA lined paper cups can reduce the amount we recycle too.
PLA lined paper cups will separate when decomposing leaving a paper ‘mulch’ and the PLA lining. 99.9% of all normal paper cups used at the moment will still biodegradable but take a lot longer (years) than the PLA lined product due to the oil based poly lining on the inside which prevent liquids seeping into the paper walls. However these cups can be recycled into some other product. Adding this new kind of paper cup with PLA lining into the ‘mix’, however noble the intentions, may create more waste than previously created with the oil based poly lined paper cups.
If one of these PLA cups is put into a batch of ‘normal’ paper cups for recycling (and you cannot visibly tell the difference) the PLA will react with the oil based poly lined materials and ruin the whole batch of paper, making it completely non recyclable! Moreover, PLA bottles and food packaging has been found to have been included in Polystyrene and Polypropylene plastic recycling bins, resulting in contamination of their contents.
Biodegradable PLA (Polylactic acid) material, typically made from corn starch, is already in short supply. It will never be available in sufficient quantity to replace oil-derived plastics without creating serious food shortages as more agriculture is devoted to corn starch production. It is also currently more expensive than oil-based alternatives.
If you don’t actually pay Save-a-cup or some other organisation to take your used cups away they will simply go to landfill with the other ‘normal’ paper cups and even the PLA lined cups wont biodegrade in there. They actually need to be surrounded by nice warm compost to decompose.
So my advice is to question any company that states products they sell are helping the environment, and ask them if they have thought about what was removed from the land to create the space for their corn crops etc and how the product they produce or market is disposed of.
(They wont be able to answer the last question by the way – as soon as the product is used it is not possible for any company to claim that the goods are biodegradable as they don’t know how the product has been used. PLA lined cups used in the auto paint industry for example – will never biodegrade)
One other factor to consider regarding these new products is that we have spent years giving farm subsidies to farmers in Africa to help them create crops and stand on their own two feet. Now we are mass producing those same crops for Bio Fuel and alternatives to plastics, lowering the price as a result, and plunging these people back into poverty. You may have noticed our food bills are higher as a result of some of this too…