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The rise of the ‘eco-litterer’

38% people have tried and failed to compost food and drink packaging at home
The rise of the 'eco-litterer'

A plant-based packaging expert is warning that confusion around ‘compostable’ packaging could lead to an increase in ‘eco-littering’.

Consumers admit that they’ve tried but failed to compost packaging at home and dropped ‘compostable’ food and drink packaging outside, mistakenly thinking it will quickly rot where it is.

‘Home composting isn’t suitable for most ‘compostable’ food and drink packaging. This sort of packaging requires a commercial composting facility for it to break down. But consumers can be forgiven for being confused. After all, it often says ‘compostable’ on the packaging. That’s why we’ve started calling our products ‘plant-based’, rather than ‘compostable’. It manages expectations.’

Owner of RawPac

A wasted effort?

The study of 2,000 UK consumers was undertaken by plant-based food and drink packaging company RawPac.

It found 38% of respondents have had to remove compostable packaging from their home compost bin because it didn’t break down, without realising that this kind of packaging must be dealt with at specialist recycling facilities.

Mixed messages

Nearly a fifth (18%) of those questioned said they ‘don’t see much benefit’ in recycling their packaging as ‘it ends up in landfill anyway’, and 29% regularly put their compostable food and drink packaging in normal public litter bins.

‘Consumers clearly have an appetite for helping the environment and are paying attention to what their packaging is made of, but if they end up disappointed and frustrated by their expectations and the mixed messages they’re getting, we risk that appetite declining very quickly.

‘We’re at a crucial point in the journey toward reducing our carbon footprint and hitting a critical mass of consumers demanding sustainable products, but if they think that their own effort is wasted, we’ll lose that support and momentum very quickly indeed.

‘One thing that really frustrates our customers is the lack of consistency across local authorities. With some authorities you can recycle certain things that others won’t let you. And that applies to green waste too, which requires better provision from local authorities and better awareness among consumers.’

Owner of RawPac

Owner of Manchester-based RawPac, Tim Wilson, believes the confusion over the term ‘compostable’ could lead to an increase in eco-littering by consumers who are buying this packaging in good faith to help the environment.

He believes consumers want plastic-free packaging, but are becoming frustrated by the lack of public composting facilities and confused by mixed messages about what they can and can’t do with take-away food packaging and coffee cups.

Click here to find out why Garden Organic is calling for a complete ban on the use of peat in horticulture.

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