A longtime partner to the Green Sports Alliance, Natur-Tec has been developing bioplastics for over 12 years. The global manufacturer of Natur-Bag® compostable liners and Natur-Ware® compostable cutlery has seen the market for compostable and biobased products significantly grow, and evolve, during that time.
“Bioplastics are all we do, and we’re very passionate about that” says Sr. Director of Business Development, Rick Lombardo, “But it’s not enough to only offer products. We are focused on assisting both our industry and our clients through education and stakeholder engagement.”
When entities, such as sporting venues, look to collect their food scraps and divert them from a landfill, compostable plastics can help their efforts. Studies have shown compostable plastics increase participation in these programs as they help eliminate confusion by reducing ‘sort anxiety’ and, as it relates to compostable bags, they reduce the ‘ick’ factor associated with the collection of food waste. “Compostable products integrate seamlessly into these programs as they will biodegrade much like the food scraps at an industrial compost facility,” says Lombardo.
While every program is unique, there are important considerations when looking to use compostable plastics to support a food scrap collection program including: proper infrastructure, knowing what to look for when buying, proper sort stations and signage, and education.
“Education is critical to the success of a program,” says Lombardo. “The collection of food scraps is a bit of a paradigm shift for most people. Our job is to help make it as easy as possible. We make sure our clients have the right tools and processes in place to ensure success.”
Continued engagement with the staff at all levels is another important consideration for zero-waste and food scrap collection programs. It’s important to highlight the “what and why” of the program because the addition of a third sort bin for food scraps can drive confusion. It’s critical that there is appropriate signage detailing what goes where and that your entire team understands the importance of proper bin and signage placement. This will go a long way in helping eliminating contamination, which can be costly and burdensome. When it comes to proper signage and sort stations, “Pictures go a long way. Consider, you only have a few seconds of someone’s time when they’re looking at a sort station before everything they have in their hands goes into one bin. Make it simple and control the product supply, have the proper signage, and enough sort stations throughout your venue”, says Lombardo.
It’s important to consider compostable products require an industrial compost facility for proper disposal. Therefore, it’s important that if you’re looking to use compostable packaging to support your food scrap collection or zero-waste program that you are engaged with your solid waste hauler and compost facility to ensure that their processes can handle this packaging.
Another key factor in having a successful program is knowing what to buy. There tends to be a lot of confusion when buying compostable products due to claims made by the manufacturer and since the industry remains new relative to traditional plastics. It’s important that when a buyer is looking for the right products, that they look for products certified compostable by the Biodegradable Product Institute (BPI). There has been a lot of advancement in terms of bioplastic technology allowing for increased performance over the last decade. However, there continues to be a bit of a challenge for cost effective compostable packaging solutions for items such as candy, chip bags, condiments packs, etc. Sometimes the solution is rethinking the product design or process.
“That’s where we can help, we work with brand owners and venues to develop compostable packaging solutions that make sense,” Lombardo comments.
As the call for a more circular economy strengthens whether through policy or heightened environmental awareness, biobased and compostable plastics will play an increasingly important role. Through its strong research and development capabilities and global positioning, Natur-Tec is ready for the opportunities that lie ahead.
Based in Circle Pines, Minnesota, Natur-Tec’s parent company, Northern Technologies International Corporation (NASDAQ: NTIC) has been in business for over 40 years with a global focus on developing and engineering environmentally beneficial materials. You can learn more about Natur-Tec by visiting www.natur-tec.com and www.natur-bag.com.