We spent many years with the ideal “from field to table” to refer to the idea of local consumption, from kilometer zero, of quality vegetables and fruits, but this path was not only one way.
What if we could do it bi-directionally? What if after eating and preparing food, we could return something to the earth in a biodegradable form for the next harvest. This is what compostable containers are all about. Today we talk about it.
Plastic. Everything he gave us and everything he takes from us.
Functionally, plastic is a fabulous material. The invention of polymerization of various petroleum derivatives has taken the plastics industry to unimaginable heights since the first Bakelite telephone came into existence.
Bakelite is considered the first plastic polymer created by man.
Before plastic, we only had paper, wood, metal and glass to store things, including food. Some of these elements are not inert (wood or paper) and others, like metal, can react with food acids. Glass is what has resisted the best as a container since its recyclability is 100% and it is totally inert with the foods that contain it. The disadvantages are that it weighs a lot and lets light through. Solar radiation also spoils food.
And plastic arrived with its magical properties:
- It’s a cheap material (for now)
- Its capacity for shaping by hot injection, blowing, extrusion, etc. makes it possible to create containers with unimaginable shapes. These characteristics have helped a lot in differentiating the products in the world of advertising and marketing.
- It is opaque, which provides very good protection against light.
- It is lightweight, which significantly reduces transportation costs.
In the success of the food industry, plastic has been an unparalleled element of food safety and preservation. Go to a supermarket and remove any foods that do not contain plastic in any of their packaging from your sight. You keep 10% of what is offered and we even spend it.
And what’s wrong with plastic?
Well, on its own, it has little or nothing bad for your health (ignoring issues like Bisphenol A or similar seizures). The problem comes from the abuse of its use, from the poor management that we make of resources and from the disastrous management of the recycling of this type of material.
If everything was done as it should be, recycling would be much higher and we wouldn’t have as many plastic pollution problems in every corner of the planet.
If microplastics end up in the metabolism of the fish we eat later, it’s because we let the plastics reach the sea, where they decompose under the action of water, bacteria, solar radiation and are part of food chains. And that is solely and exclusively our problem.
Biodegradable containers and containers are coming
They do not come to save our lives but at least to mitigate the polluting effect of the misuse and recycling of conventional plastic. For some time now, home delivery services have exploded. Not only online commerce, but food delivery with the emergence of “horseriders”.
This fashion generates a huge amount of containers and containers that are mostly plastic. Can we lighten it with compostable containers and containers? Something can be done.
What are compostable containers and containers made of?
biodegradable cardboard packaging
In these you can even put hot soup without it collapsing. How is it possible? The structure that gives body to the container is made of highly pressed cellulose.
To prevent the paper from getting soaked, does it have a plastic coating? Not exactly. It is not strictly speaking plastic but it is a polymer of lactic acid (polylactic acid). PLA for its acronym in English. It consists of a polymerization based on corn starch, totally biodegradable.
Biodegradable packaging that looks more like plastic
Are they really compostable or is there a catch?
No, there is no catch. All containers made of starches, starches, etc. They are compostable as some contain plastic, but those made from PLA or CPLA (Crystallized Polylactic Acid) or sugar cane meet the 100% biodegradable certification.
If you want to ensure that a container is 100% biodegradable, it must have EN13432 certification.
For this, the EN13432 certification has been established in Europe. Any container or container with this certification is considered 100% biodegradable, therefore also compostable. There are also containers that do not meet this certification and are compostable. It’s just a way to be safe.
Get used to the idea of being able to add containers to your compost heap, although conceptually and visually this may seem strange to us. For me, honestly, it assumes quite a strong cognitive dissonance, but you just have to believe in the science to be convinced.
If resource management and recycling have not had the effect they should have on the rational use of plastics, let’s somehow mitigate their harmful effects by replacing them with this type of compostable packaging.
The most common materials you will see in this type of packaging are:
- Containers made from sugarcane
- Cornstarch or PLA containers
- Made with CPLA. It’s like the previous ones but with a hardening process (they are a little more resistant).
- Made with RCPLA (the previous one but recycled)
I’m sure there are others. Do you know any? Leave it to us in the comments.