Posts Tagged ‘green’

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 Taxes

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Our leaders are saving us from the threat of ‘dangerous’ disposable products! – with taxes…..

Recently a law in France was passed to tax plastic cutlery to try to encourage consumers to buy more eco-friendly products, and Paris is planning to expand the measure to include several other items, the environment minister said last Monday

There are similar taxes on disposable products in Malta and closer to home in Ireland the plastic carrier bag tax of 15 Eurocents per bag was introduced in 2002. In England we are starting to see supermarkets charge for bags, or only offer ‘bags for life’ at checkouts or their Anya Hindmarch equivalents. Sainsburys have announced today that they will not give carrier bags away at the tills and customers must request them.

There is apparently a law in Spain that states that companies serving food are required to lay a new table cloth (or serve food on a wipe clean table) after each meal. Restaurants in Spain use large amounts of disposable paper table cloths as this law would require the restaurants to either have an abundance of linen table covers or serve their meals on McDonalds style wipe clean tables in order to meet their obligations. Not really the look most restaurants would strive for (unless you run a KFC/Burger King et al)

In the UK we have some laws regarding disposable products which don’t fit well with the apparent ‘green’ policies of governments past and present. One such law is that recycled paper cannot be used to make products which come into direct contact with food. A sensible idea methinks, you don’t want to be eating your supper from a paper plate which used to be toilet paper. However many companies in UK, in order to be seen to be going ‘green’ and ‘doing their bit’ are offering plates made from recycled material. But how you ask? Surely thousands are falling ill from bum to mouth disease or something? Well no, what the companies are doing is laminating the top of the paper plates with plastic so the foodstuffs don’t actually touch the surface of the paper. Brilliant!? No, bad idea. The product is now single use in the strongest sense of the word(s). These new plates cannot be recycled into anything and will need to go to landfill as the paper and plastic are fused together for all eternity.

Just because something is made from recycled material does not mean it is a ‘green’ product, attention to how the product is made and if the product can be recycled after use is most important. Every product we at Event Supplies sell can be recycled and many are made from recycled paper where the law allows. Beware of companies cashing in on the whole green hoopla at the moment with really not very environmentally sound products.

A common law and set of taxes for the whole of the EU maybe the way forward with regard to disposable products. One country taxing a particular disposable product heavily could mean governments in their quest to be seen to be doing the right thing will unintentionally close disposable manufacturing companies leaving thousands out of work.

I do wonder however, how taxing anything disposable will save the planet. People will simply pay more and we doubt all the money in the world can stop seas from rising and landfill sites from overflowing. Personally I like the plastic bag tax, this one works and fewer plastic bags are being used as a result and people still get their shopping home. Some products however, you cannot simply replace with products that are ‘for life’. People need to be responsible for recycling; the onus should be on us at home and work.

Money won’t solve this one.

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…

New Folded Paper Table Covers

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

We are please to announce that we have expended our range of Folded Paper Table Covers even further! We have sourced a limited range (White, Red, Dark Green and Dark Blue) of rectangular folded paper table covers.

These products are good quality heavy steam embossed and come supplied in cash and carry dispenser packs like the rest of our range of Folded Paper Table Covers. The only difference to the product is the way the Table Cover machine folds the paper into the cash and carry packs, our normal fold is square, these are rectangular.

A significant saving can be made on the limited number of colours as these products are manufactured in the UK (all our other banquet paper is sourced from Europe and the exchange rate is not doing any of us any favours at the moment!)