Posts Tagged ‘PLA’

Biodegradable Catering Supplies

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

This week Tesco announced it “does not see the value” in using packs that can only be industrially composted. As we suggested back in September last year we foresaw numerous problems associated with  PLA biodegradable products and the obvious problems that come with adding new materials into an already struggling recycling stream.

Tesco’s packaging technical manager Stephen Pizer said “We are open to talking to people and to reviewing new materials, but we want to make sure we are not complicating matters by adding materials.”

“We do not see the value in using packaging that’s only industrially compostable,” said Pizer. “Local authorities do not want to touch it as it can contaminate existing recycling schemes.”

The retailer currently uses compostable cellulose-based based Natureflex for packaging, catering supplies and some of its organic produce range. The packs have been chosen as they are home compostable.

A number of other supermarkets, including Asda, have decided not to use degradable plastics due to concerns over their effect on the recycling stream for non-compostable materials.

Paper Cups Explained

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Single Poly Coated, Double Poly Coated, Ripple Cups, Double Wall Cups, PLA Cups, Biodegradable Cups, Hot Drink Cups, Triple Layer Cups… I guess it can be a little confusing. Here is some help.

Cold Drink Paper Cups

Our paper cups for cold drinks are described as ‘Double Poly Coated’ this means that both the inside and outside of the paper cups have been sprayed with Polyethylene which is used to prevent the liquids seeping into the cups on the inside and condensation seeping in on the outside, this also helps to seal the cup board together.

There is little variation in the design of cold drink paper cups when compared to the many different types of hot drink paper cups. We do however ensure that our cup board is suitably thick so that the cups do not become difficult to handle when filled and where possible offer a squat shaped cup which gives a larger base and consequently a lower centre of gravity (the cups won’t tipple over as easily)

Who’d've guessed so much thought went into them?

Hot Drink Paper Cups

Our (single wall) paper cups for hot drinks are described as ‘Single Poly Coated’ this means that only the inside of the paper cups have been sprayed with Polyethylene, unlike Paper Cups for cold drinks the outside is not sprayed as condensation does not form on the cups when hot liquids are inside them. References to single walls or double walls mean the number of layers of paper cup board used to form the cup.

Single Wall paper cups for hot drinks are manufactured from thicker board than paper cups for cold drinks to help prevent fingers and thumbs from being burnt by hot liquids.

Double Wall paper cups have two layers of cup board and a cavity between the walls to insulate the cup. These cups can keep drinks warmer for longer.

Ripple paper cups feature corrugated paper wrapping to increase hand comfort and improve heat insulation, also keeping beverages hotter for longer. Ripple cups are basically paper sleeves (aka Coffee Clutches or Cup Wraps) permanently attached to the outside of a standard hot drink paper cup. Ripple cups therefore have three layers of board, hence the ‘Triple Layer Paper Cup’

PLA Compostable Paper cups are made with a natural biodegradable lining instead of the Polyethylene used in conventional paper cups. The PLA (Polylactic acid) lining will compost together with the paper cup.

Conventional paper cups will not do this as the oil based lining is not biodegradable.

We do not sell PLA lined paper cups as whilst we share the sentiments of those who wish to ‘go green’ with their disposables there are few places in current recycling channels for these products to go other than landfill where they will not biodegrade.

The options one has for recycling are Fibre Recovery schemes run by the likes of Save A Cup who will collect and recycle the cups. They do however set minimum limits for collections and charge for recycling bags, bins, collections and admin the total of which can easily run into £100′s.

Unless individuals use enough cups to warrant a cup bin of their own (unlikely even for the biggest Coffee fans!) these cups will be treated as any other therefore we consider them pointless to all except those that compost at home and large companies using enough cups to require waste paper cup collections.

95% of normal paper cups can be recycled at present, the 5% that cannot is the lining of the cups.

More of our thoughts and observations about PLA cups can be found here.

Cold Drink Paper CupsPaper Coffee Cups

Save your Cups

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

The Paper cup market has become saturated with biodegradable paper cups which sadly some people now feel they can toss away in the knowledge that they will eventually disappear. This is a common misconception as these cups need to be put separately in compost for a number of years until they do eventually decompose.

Better still than leaving your paper cups to sit in compost for years and losing the paper is to recycle them into another paper product (commonly toilet paper)

 99% of paper cups in the world are not biodegradable but are recyclable as the below article explains…

The Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group report a successful paper cup recycling trial in which virtually all the fibre from standard Polyethylene (PE) coated paper cups was successfully extracted and converted into high quality tissue fibre for use in products such as facial and toilet tissues.

On average standard paper cups, intended for hot drinks, are made up of approximately 95% high quality paper fibre and 5% PE coating. During the trials, at an undisclosed paper mill in the North of England, Nearly all the paper fibre was successfully extracted making it possible to claim that the “industry standard paper cup” is 95% recyclable and that the recycling can take place in the UK.

The paper mill involved in the trial, pleased with the quality of fibre obtained, has asked the Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group to consider on-going paper cup recycling arrangement, provided continuity of supply can be maintained, at a level of, at least, 10 tonnes per month.

The mill and the group are also working to find an outlet for the separated PE coating. The trial involved processing over 10 tonnes of used Post Consumer Paper cups, collected at trial locations in the UK and the group’s next objective is to speed up “used cup collection” in order to maintain the newly established option and open up further UK recycling routes for paper cups.

Over the past two years the group has been working with several UK paper mills and the Fibre Technology Association to explore local recycling opportunities for paper cups. The group has also worked to define how best to prepare used paper cups for recycling and this work is ongoing.

“This is a fantastic step forward for the group, but the next challenge is collecting enough used material, a minimum of 120t through 2009, to maintain continuity of supply to mills. If anyone is already segregating paper cups on site and wants to help the activity of the group please can they get in touch with us” urges Susan Nash one of the founder members of the group.

In addition the group is also working with Save a Cup and now all paper cups collected by Save-A-Cup will be passed to the group for recycling. Save -A-Cup can be contacted at:

Save a Cup Recycling Company Ltd
Suite 2, Bridge House
Bridge Street
HIGH WYCOMBE
HP11 2EL

E-mail: info@save-a-cup.co.uk
Tel: 01494 510167
Fax: 01494 510168
Anyone wishing to find out more about the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group please contact Barry Read of The Fibre Technology Association at:

The Fibre Technology Association
PO Box 420
Durham
DH1 9WY

E-mail: info@papercuprecycling.co.uk
Tel: 07836 796000
Fax: 0870 137 0369

Press Contact Susan Nash 01242 284325

The new PLA – Oxo-biodegradable Plastics

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Polylactic acid or Polylactide (PLA) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the U.S.) or sugarcanes (rest of world). Although PLA has been known for more than a century, it has only been of commercial interest in recent years, in light of its biodegradability.

In recent years PLA has been used to line the inside of Paper Cups in place of the oil based lining more commonly used and to create Plastic Cups, Cutlery, Carrier Bags, Food Packaging and even Nappies.

This product however is produced by turning land over once used for growing food crops and like bio-fuels contributes to increased food prices. PLA is also more expensive than many petroleum-derived commodity plastics and can create problems in recycling streams by contaminating the oil based plastics (making more waste!)

Now ordinary oil based plastic and recycled plastic can now be made biodegradable.

Oxo-biodegradable Plastics (OBP’s) are conventional plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene to which is added a proprietary mixture (d2w additive) that accelerates the breakdown of the chemical structure of the plastic.

OBP’s degrade, then biodegrade, on land or at sea, in the light or the dark, in heat or cold, in whatever timescale is required, leaving NO fragments NO methane and NO harmful residues.

These plastics are the main ones used in a variety of catering disposable packaging applications. The resultant breakdown products are then amenable to conversion by micro-organisms, for which these products are an energy source or food, into carbon dioxide and water; thereby returning otherwise intractable plastics to the ecosystem.

These plastics can now have a shelf life, determined at the point of manufacture. Shopping carrier bags, food wraps, plastic glasses et al that will completely and harmlessly biodegrade. Utilising this new technology does not mean the products cannot be recycled.

Some commercial products that have already incorporated this new technology include carrier bags, garbage bags, Ziplock bags, cling film, shrink-wraps and EPS trays.

Expect to see use by dates on your plastic cups in the future!

More on OBP’s can be found here.

Green Credentials……..

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

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.  

Plastic Vending Cup8m banquet-rollsNon-Vending Cups

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…