BioPak’s sustainable solutions

BioPak Managing Director Gary Smith is passionate about getting the right message across to the industry: that BioPak’s cups are both compostable and recycled through many council paper waste collections.
“We have to set the record straight. The myth that councils are not recycling paper cups needs to be dispelled – because they are,” Gary says.

BioPak confirms 43 councils do recycle bioplastic lined and regular plastic lined paper cups, including all Australian Capital Territory councils, Byron Shire Council, Shellharbour, City of Busselton, City of Adelaide and Brisbane City Council.

“The waste solution is not a complex one. It’s actually very easy,” Gary says.

“Australia has the necessary facilities and the opportunity to recycle all paper cups. It’s just a question of sorting it, bailing it, and sending it to the same paper mills that recycle milk and juice cartons.”

At least 80 per cent of all milk and juice cartons in Australia are recycled. Paper cups and milk cartons are considered liquid paperboard (LPB) as they both have a waterproof lining attached to paper. Paper cups contain only 5 per cent plastic in a single layer and a milk carton contains between 20 to 25 per cent plastic in a more complicated sandwich structure of plastic and paper.

“It’s not a matter of the cup recycling process being too new or too difficult,” Gary says.

He says the reason that very few facilities actually recycled and that millions of tonnes of recyclable waste are going to landfill, is “due to a lack of recycling infrastructure” and waste facilities who “want to receive the cleanest, purest and fastest resalable content, not a mixed paper product, in the case of paper cups”.

“The lower your cost in processing, the better the output and the profitability. This is not a criticism. It is the reality of a commercialised waste industry that has shareholders looking for returns on investments – very large investments,” Gary says. “The broad problem for Australia to solve is balancing rightful commercial interests with environmental sustainability outcomes.”

Gary says even the most readily recyclable materials, such as regular plastic, that generates significant revenue for recycling companies, is currently only achieving a 27 per cent recycling rate due to infrastructure and inefficiency issues.

“The Australian government subsidises the cost of extracting and producing fossil fuels by $7 billion annually. If we invested just a fraction of this amount of money in developing recycling infrastructure, we could achieve close to a 100 per cent recycling rate,” Gary says.

Solutions to separately manage each type of product into the waste stream, as recommended by some for coffee cups, is not practical or necessary.

“If we sort in our current system correctly and divert responsibly, we can achieve zero waste,” Gary says.

In Australia, 7 million tonnes of organic waste is sent to landfill each year. To help reduce this figure, Gary says one solution is to replace single-use foodservice packaging made from conventional durable plastics derived from finite fossil resources, with alternative, less durable compostable materials. This includes paper and sugarcane pulp, which are more suited to the short functional life of takeaway products.

“Plastics made from fossil resources are artificially cheap. No one takes into account the cost of the environmental damage these materials cause,” Gary says. “Biopak has gone to great lengths to design its products sustainably. They are produced from annually renewable resources made from plants not oil, certified carbon neutral, and offer end-of-life options to help divert waste from landfill where facilities exist.”

This includes its disposable coffee BioCup range (with a polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic lining that dissolves in the repulping process) and sugarcane pulp takeaway containers, which are both compostable and recyclable within the paper stream by a number of recyclers servicing many councils across Australia.

“The PE (polyethylene) plastic lining of regular coffee cups is skimmed off during the recycling process and unfortunately sent to landfill, or worse, incinerated,” Gary says. “Even if our bioplastic goes to landfill it doesn’t release gases because PLA is inert. Landfills are designed to store waste, not break it down.”

In fact, the decomposition of organic waste creates methane gas, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

BioPak provides compostable alternatives, including its BioCups, which are lined with bioplastic and have been certified commercially compostable.

“Our business has gone from strength to strength since we introduced compostable BioCups back in 2009,” Gary says. “Compostable coffee cups represent more than 10 to 15 per cent of the Australian market. That shows me that consumers are looking for a better environmental solution.”

BioPak’s products are designed for a circular economy, using renewable and sustainably-sourced material that can be recycled in commercial compost facilities along with any food scraps.
n Contrary to claims Australia has no adequate composting facilities, Gary says it’s just, literally, “rubbish”.

“We have at least 10 commercial compost facilities across Australia working with many councils, events and businesses that process our cups, turning them into nutrient rich compost,” he says.

Compostable packaging is setting the standard internationally as the most viable option to conventional plastics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Using raw materials that are rapidly renewable preserves resources for future generations, and partly addresses the massive issue of plastics in the ocean.

“In Europe and America these solutions are being rapidly adopted and we would gladly work with the waste industry bodies to achieve a unified goal,” Gary says. “Without additional compost infrastructure we will continue to send millions of tonnes of organic waste to landfill. We have to move away from the model of producing single-use disposable packaging from durable plastics derived from fossil resources. It’s a model that just makes no sense.”

While a number of products on the market are compliant with United States and European-compostable standards, BioPak’s will be the only company compliant with Australian compostable standard AS4736 in the next few months.

*This article is a promotional feature in the August 2017 edition of BeanScene Magazine.

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