At Greenham we put sustainability first, we are committed to helping our customers understand how they can be more responsible and make better choices to protect the environment.
To support our customers on this journey, we feel that it is not only important to show how sustainable a product is, but to explain the differences between the various end-of-life processes of products to help our consumers make the right choice when selecting a product.
Compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable are all terms used by manufacturers to describe the nature of a product and in most cases these terms will also describe how to dispose of the product responsibly. In this article we will describe the the benefits of compostable cloths which will help in making an informed decision whether compostable is the right product for you.
Our compostable cloths are made entirely from natural materials and decompose fully into compost, but it is important that they are taken to the right composting environment after use. Compost is a nutrient-rich soil conditioner that helps plants and crops to grow, minimising the need for chemical fertilisers.
The advantages of compostable products and packaging:
- If they are sent to a composting environment, they reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill
- They will then be made into compost containing rich nutrients
- If composted, they will decompose within a maximum of 12 weeks which is quicker than many other product materials e.g. plastic, metals etc.
It is important to look out for products that claim to be compostable are made from materials that have been sustainably sourced, for example, products that are made from either renewable resources or from by-products e.g. from the food waste industry. You should also make sure the material that is claiming to be compostable is realistically compostable. It could be attached to another material that isn’t compostable and they will need separating. This is an easy process to eliminate the risk of parts being put in the wrong waste stream. A great example of this is our CleanWorks compostable cloth, the outer packaging and the cloth itself are compostable however the label is not currently. Therefore, we have created an easy peel label that can be taken off, disposed of correctly and the rest of the’ product can be composted.
The above accreditations prove the products or packing are compostable in theory and it is your responsibility to ensure that they will be composted correctly in practice.
Commercial composting facilities accept garden waste or trimmings, food waste, and certified compostable packaging waste. Incoming waste is checked for contamination, shredded, formed into windrows, and regularly turned to optimise the natural composting process. Rainwater at the sites is stored and can be used in periods of dry weather to add moisture. Finally, the product is screened to a range of grades for agricultural or “green” (grass, food, manure) and domestic “brown” (dry leaves, branches, compostable packaging) organic matter, the green providing nitrogen and the brown providing necessary carbon. It is important to make sure compostable products are dealt with in the correct way. Compostable plastics will not break down quickly in the ocean and can be just as harmful, if not more so, to marine life than petroleum-based or ‘traditional’ plastics. Also, compostable materials can contaminate recycling streams if they are placed in the recycling waste.
If a product is certified to be industrially compostable, it is your responsibility to check that the organic waste collection goes to an industrial composting plant. If your site does not have a food preparation area it is unlikely you will have this facility and therefore a compostable product may not be the best choice for you.
Although compostable cloths are an amazing sustainable alternative which aids in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill, it is not always the right choice for certain businesses. Without the correct means to dispose of the compostable cloths they can be detrimental to environment and therefore choosing a biodegradable or recyclable cloth could be a better option.
The term ‘biodegradable products’ means products will break down naturally without the need for intervention or a process like composting. However, biodegradation is a loose term and as it can take anywhere from a few days to 500 or more years. The length of time depends on the chemical composition of the object and the way that it’s stored. Temperature, water, light and oxygen also affect how fast something degrades.
A recyclable product means it can be reprocessed into another product, whether it be the same product (for example plastic bottles recycled to make more plastic bottles) or a different product (plastics made into clothing). However, it’s important to check whether a product is truly and realistically recyclable after use.
Contact your local service centre to find out what biodegradable and recyclable options we have available to you.