The facts of the matter

recycle

It’s come to our realisation on social media & when talking to our lovely customers that there is a lot of confusion around what it means to be eco-friendly. Everyone will have a view and everyone is entitled to make their own assumptions and choices, however, we have laid out the hard facts for you here to digest and take an objective view.

What is the meaning of biodegradable?

This means something is capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms. Biodegradable substances include food, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste, manufactured products made from natural materials (such as paper & vegetable-oil based soaps)

However, even though a lot of products will break down naturally (therefore are technically biodegradable), some may take many years to do so. Even natural products such as banana skin can take 2 years to biodegrade when thrown away!

Similarly, packaged products using biodegradable plastic bags require specific conditions to break down the material properly and this may produce harmful greenhouse emissions when left to decompose in a landfill.

So, what does it mean to be compostable?

Compostable means that a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil. This typically must occur in about 90 days.
Please note that compostable and biodegradable plastics are not currently recyclable however and can contaminate the recycling process if they are placed into a standard recycling bin.

And, what on earth are bio-plastics?

They are made from marine or plant-based materials (such as corn and sugarcane) instead of petroleum and are therefore considered more environmentally-friendly.
Their production requires less usage of fossil fuels and generates less greenhouse gases than that of petroleum-based plastics. Some bioplastics are also made from waste agriculture by-products, such as potato peelings, which promote “recycling”.

However, not all bioplastics are biodegradable, meaning that many bioplastics are not disposed of correctly.

What does it mean if you recycle something?

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Depending on where you live, your recycling options will vary. Some councils allow you to put all of your recycling (except glass and plastic bags) into one bin. Most communities will also have drop off locations specifically for plastic bags, whilst others may support local food waste recycling which can be turned into sustainable gardening soil

Did you know that there are limits to how many times some materials can be recycled?

For example, standard plastics and paper, can usually be recycled only a few times before they become unusable, whereas others, such as glass, metal and aluminium, can be recycled endlessly.
To add to the complication there are also seven different types of plastic packaging, some commonly recycled, others almost never recyclable.
If you are buying something that is reusable however, we do think that this is still an option you should forgive yourself for. If durable & long lasting, you won’t be contributing to recycling for a while! It’s just best to check if the products are able to be recycled.

UK Plastic Symbols

The debate about which (recyclable, biodegradable or compostable) is best for the environment is ongoing and there’s no single answer to this question. All of these solutions come with their own benefits and limitations, but are a step forward in considering more sustainable alternatives to the current consumerism & throwaway society we have created in recent years.

Appletree and Avalon have a wide variety of compostable, biodegrable & recyclable products. Where possible, we focus on reusable or home compostable. We are also pleased to say that we don’t stock any single use plastic products and all of our packaging can be recycled or composted.

With regards to plastic, we have researched this extensively & feel that even though we’d like to eradicate anything harmful to the planet, the impact of single use plastic on the environment is the bigger immediate issue we can help highlight and remove right away from our lifestyles.

We aren’t saying that we don’t understand the wider, bigger picture, or the impact that all plastic has but in order for us all to take small steps towards a zero waste lifestyle, we feel that everyone has the power to minimise their consumption of single use & hopefully be inspired to take a look at our other alternative options.

If we have stocked a reusable plastic item it will be 100% recyclable. We have made this choice to offer a UK manufactured option & because we have found that it is overall more ethical by supporting our ethos & by not causing any other environmental issues such as deforestation, high carbon footprint, low wages for workers or contributing to consumer health risks

Ultimately, if something is reusable, we can take the care to ensure that we accomplish the necessary precautions to make the product better quality & 100% recyclable.
Together we can also make better informed decisions on everything we buy, now & in the future & ultimately try not to waste so much as humanity.

If you are going to choose to recycle, here are some handy tips from Which?
Which? Took some time to speak with plastic experts & they explained that while manufacturers need to do their bit to improve their plastic waste output, there were plenty that consumers could be doing to help make sure that the UK’s recycling system is more efficient.
Screw lids back on – The general rule is to screw plastic lids back on to their bottles and push straws back into cartons before recycling. On their own they are too small to make it through most recycling sorting machines (most will reject anything narrower than 40mm). However please check with your local authority.
Squash bottles – Squash plastic bottles before you put them out for recycling. Not only does this save space (reducing their carbon footprint), but it also stops them rolling off the sorting machine conveyor belts
Recycle at the supermarket – Take recyclable plastic film and leftover carrier bags back to recycling points at big supermarkets. The Which? investigation showed that this could increase the amount of supermarket packaging you recycle by up to 10%
Empty and rinse – If there’s residual food waste left in your recycling, empty it and give it a quick rinse. They don’t need to be sparkling, but a half-full yogurt pot or baked bean tin, for example, risk contaminating porous materials such as paper and card in the same recycling load and rendering it all unrecyclable

If you would also like to read more on plastic, we’ve found this useful link:
https://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_recycling.aspx

Where do you stand on plastic?

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