By Lucy Frankel, Vegware
Last week in Bristol, about 70 businesspeople gathered at Café Matariki, the waterside eatery at Pacific Yoga. We were celebrating the launch of Close the Loop, Vegware’s new trade collection for its compostable catering disposables. And believe me, there’s cause for celebration, as we extend more and more composting collections around the UK.
Here’s the problem: takeaway has become a part of consumers’ on-the-go lifestyles. Even with a shift to reusable coffee cups, local foodservice businesses still rely on disposable containers to enable takeaway sales, an important income stream.
The reality though is that used conventional takeaway packaging is a mix of materials contaminated with food and goes to incineration or landfill because it cannot be recycled. The UK exports 70% of its paper and 66% of its plastic for recycling, with no idea if it actually gets recycled. In January 2018, China banned UK recycling because the quality was so low.
Since 2012, Vegware has employed people whose sole remit is to help our clients compost used Vegware. Eilidh Brunton leads our Environmental team, and now has two full time colleagues. Back in 2012, only Aberdeenshire had a solution, but things are very different now. Not every UK business can access commercial composting collections, but we’re growing coverage fast.
We launched our own collections last year to vastly increase coverage around Scotland – follow the journey in this 360º video. Now we’ve launched the same service in Bristol, Worcester and Gloucester. Plus, there are many regions where other waste collectors accept Vegware and take it for commercial composting. We’re currently working behind the scenes to vastly increase coverage in London, the Midlands, York and Leeds, and SRA members will be the first to know!
Janice Heskett manages Café Matariki, and is determined to reduce her business’ environmental impact wherever she can. Her café uses Close the Loop, and now she is the first to join the Composting Collective – our brand new bring-back scheme. The idea is that clients who are composting used Vegware can choose to display a ‘Composting Collective’ window sticker. Then customers walking away with Vegware packaging can deposit it at other participating cafes. Collectively, we’re trying to overcome the challenge of on-the-go recycling.
Also in Bristol, the University of the West of England is now also using Close the Loop at Onezone, the main restaurant for Frenchay Campus. UWE has 30,000 students and 3,000 staff. Eddy Piper, UWE’s Sustainable Projects Officer explains:
“We have used Vegware’s plastic-free disposables for many years, as part of our Sustainability Plan. Now with their new Bristol collection, Close the Loop, the used Vegware from our main restaurant is turned into compost for Gloucestershire farmers.”
“It has been good so far. Vegware’s environmental support has been very helpful – their signage and posters make it much clearer what goes in each bin. They also advised on bin placement, made a flyer for the Freshers’ welcome packs, and provided training to staff and students.”
So what can SRA members do? Keep engaging with the SRA. Keep demanding composting collections from your existing waste collector. Also, look out for the government’s Waste & Resources Strategy and take part in all the consultations to demand mandatory UK food waste collections – now is the time for us all to make our voices heard.