Compostables recycling: Sorted!

By Jessica Parrilla, Paper Round

In 2019, we teamed up with Vegware, to start trials for a compostables solution for London, Brighton, and Sussex businesses from start-to-finish.  Compostables are made from plant-based materials that break down fully in under 12 weeks in the right conditions. Popular in the foodservice industry, they are an alternative to plastic packaging where food is involved. Uniquely they can be composted with food scraps, it’s a useful ingredient in the composting process.

We knew we needed an outside partner with expertise and Vegware was the obvious choice. After launching our service in mid-2020, we have now opened the UK’s first compostables specific sorting line at our Materials Recovery Facility in Essex.

Essential quality control

During trials for our compostables service, we identified that having a process for checking the quality of compostables was essential for the long-term success of the service. Key to this, was the strict acceptance criteria of composting sites – they need very low levels of contamination (such as plastics and cans) in their input materials. Understandable, given compost is spread onto farmland and gardens.

Contamination: Sorted!

To scale up our service and ensure its long-term viability, we decided to commission a new sorting line at our facility in Essex. With funding from WRAP and Vegware, the sorting line is specifically designed for compostables. The line includes a bin lift, conveyor belt, compactor and sorting stations for trained pickers to identify and remove non-target materials such as plastics and cans.

Fully operational, our new sorting line allows trained pickers to identify contaminants and easily remove them. That way, our customers can be assured that their compostables will have a useful secondary life and we can be confident materials will be accepted by the composting site.

Our new system also allows us to quickly identify specific service users with high levels of contamination, so they can be targeted for greater customer engagement.

We offer a complete solution – with 3 key stages. Our new sorting line is the final piece of the puzzle.

Paper Round  is a leading commercial recycling company and a pioneer of the circular economy. Founded by Friends of the Earth in 1988 and now an independent company, we bring insight to forward-thinking, environmentally aware companies of all sizes.

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