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‘We sold you a lemon’

Abel & Cole announces U-turn on compostable plastic packaging and calls on wider food and retail industry to follow suit
Abel and Cole compostables

Abel & Cole has announced via a new national ad campaign that it will scrap all compostable plastic packaging from its range, after research has cast serious doubt over just how compostable it actually is.
‘Compostable’ plastic has been removed from all core Abel & Cole fruit and vegetable boxes, effective immediately, and the online grocer is working with suppliers to remove compostable plastic entirely from its offering by the end of 2023.

What’s wrong with compostable plastics?

Supported by research from University College London, Abel & Cole’s decision is based on evidence that compostable plastic only breaks down under certain conditions.

The research highlights that this is not happening properly and consistently, across local authority facilities or in home compost heaps.
Abel & Cole also cited how compostable plastics are currently responsible for some recyclable material ending up in landfill every year.

The research from UCL stated that ‘Compostable plastics are a growing contaminant in the plastics recycling and some food waste collection systems, which are not able to process compostable plastics. There is currently no working technical solution to the automatic separation and sorting of compostable plastics.’

This means that, despite all best intentions, compostable plastics aren’t fulfilling their promises and could be making things worse.

‘Until recently we thought compostable plastic ended up as compost. Growing evidence shows that’s not always the case.
‘It turns out that compostable plastic only breaks down under certain conditions. And unless your local authority has access to the right equipment, compostable plastic behaves a lot like regular plastic.
‘That’s why we’ve made the decision to remove compostable plastic in our core Fruit & Veg Boxes. And we’re working hard with all our suppliers to completely remove it from our range by the end of 2023.
‘But we can’t fix the problem of compostable plastic pollution alone. We’re calling on decision makers in the food industry to join us too.’

Sustainability project manager at Abel & Cole

Ditching plastics

With the global market of biodegradable plastics (which includes compostables) set to grow to 2.62 million tonnes in 2023, now is the time for the food industry to act and help to curb the issue.

As well as scrapping compostable plastic packaging, Abel & Cole is also doubling down on reducing and reusing packaging, by extending its Club Zero refillables range, as well as launching the innovative  ‘Plastic Pick-Up Scheme’ – collecting hard-to-recycle flexible plastics from customers’ doorsteps.

Where it won’t compromise food safety or quality, Abel & Cole will be removing packaging all together.

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