Organic veg box and home delivery specialist Abel & Cole says it will remove compostable plastic from its entire range by the end of 2023.
The announcement follows a review of recent research, which, the company says, “casts serious doubt over how effective compostable plastic packaging is” in real-world conditions and concerns that growing use of plastic alternatives is creating a “compostable plastic pollution” problem.
The decision is supported by research from University College London (UCL), which shows that compostable plastic often only breaks down in specific conditions and “is not happening properly and consistently, across local authority facilities or in home compost heaps”. Additionally, the UCL research shows, compostable plastics are responsible for some recyclable material ending up in landfill. The result, says Able & Cole, is that despite best intentions, compostable plastics aren’t fulfilling their promises and could be making things worse.
As well as “urgently” taking action to remove compostable plastic from its full range, starting immediately with its fruit and veg boxes, the company says it is doubling down on reducing and reusing packaging by expanding its Club Zero refillables range. It will also continue develop its Plastic Pick-Up Scheme, collecting flexible, hard-to-recycle plastics from customers’ doorsteps.
Abel & Cole believes the problem of compostable plastic pollution is an issue for the whole of the food industry. So, it is calling on decision makers across the industry to take action against “not so compostable plastic”.
“If you’re not sure it’s breaking down the way it should, it’s time to stop using it now”.
“Growing evidence shows that compostable certification does not guarantee that the material breaks down in real world scenarios because of the unavailability of appropriate infrastructure and because these materials need very specific conditions to break down”
Asked by Natural Newsdesk if the research distinguished between different types of claimed-to-be compostable plastics (were there, for example, demonstrable differences in the performance of materials certified as ‘home compostable’, and those using a more generic ‘compostable’ claim), an Abel & Cole spokesperson said: “Studies have shown that even ‘home compostable’ materials are unlikely to fully break down in compost heaps. Growing evidence shows that compostable certification does not guarantee that the material breaks down in real world scenarios because of the unavailability of appropriate infrastructure and because these materials need very specific conditions to break down. These conditions are not necessarily the best for the other food waste that goes in, which means that waste processors are unable to process both at the same time.”