Garden of Vegan are joining the recycled plastic movement and are super excited to announce their new collaboration when it comes to food packaging, true sustainability and innovation.
Garden of Vegan will be using the world's first tray to tray, circular system for its food packaging after its great success in Europe.
Plastic is not our enemy.
For over 3 years, the team behind Garden of Vegan have been researching world wide for the answers and solutions when it comes to single use plastic, sustainability and eco friendly packaging, including the following claims; biodegradable, degradable, planet safe, green, environmentally friendly, compostable, eco friendly… the list goes on.
What we learnt during this time is that eco friendly packaging and plant-based packaging solutions are not as environmentally friendly as they may be marketed to be.
Nor did one exist that met food standards and could be sealed safely for ready-made meals.
Mass deforestation, loss of natural habitat, increased methane and CO2 gas, additional financial burden and the insufficient and unsustainable allocation of resources, all became recurring results once we went down the ‘environmentally friendly’ rabbit hole.
Garden of Vegan withheld their launch date in 2018 as they were determined to find a solution to the war on waste and plastic.
With the limited options available at the time, Garden of Vegan had no other option but to launch with the industry standard Polypropylene (PP) trays that are 100% recyclable and BPA free.
“Our promise is to lead the way when it comes to more conscious, ethical and sustainable business. Not just in our lifetime but for our future generations” Druen Dorn, Head Chef and Co-Founder of Garden of Vegan.
December 2020, means Garden of Vegan are able to shed some light on the topic of future sustainability, specifically in food packaging, as they prepare to launch what they believe to be one of the best long term solutions they have found to date; a 100% detectable and recyclable tray, made from 80% post-consumer recycled materials and 20% being a blend of post-industrial and virgin materials.
When compared to the industry standard PP tray, which is made from 100% virgin materials, meaning newly created plastic, the new CPET trays Garden of Vegan will be using are made from recycled content.
This means a significant reduction of single use plastic when it comes to these food trays.
“We believe our new CPET trays are a step in the right direction, taking out of the environment already produced plastic with the aim to up cycle it, over and over again.” Melissa Phillips, Co-Founder of Garden of Vegan.
Some stats on trays...
The average lifespan of a food tray is as little as 8 days. From the day it is produced, until the day it is disposed of.
Garden of Vegans’ new CPET trays are made from recycled materials, aimed at making it a tray to tray - again and again, circular system and solution to single use plastic.
“We are excited to be aligning with the world's first circularity in Food Packaging. A step towards true recycling processes that will reduce the amount of new plastic created and re-use what is already in circulation, making it the best choice for our environment.” Benny Walker, Co-founder of Garden of Vegan.
“Our new food trays are made from recycled materials which can then be recycled again into new food trays. What this means is zero waste and most importantly, no more single use plastic. ” Damien Turner, Co-founder of Garden of Vegan.
In an ideal world, everybody using CPET trays would be able to reuse them again and again thanks to the circulation process adopted in the Netherlands. In Europe the success of this system means CPET trays are recycled and then re-used, turning the used plastics into safe new food trays.
This process repeats again and again.
Garden of Vegan and CMActive, are working together to support this circularity in the hope for it to gain momentum and be a great solution for plastic use and re-use in Australia.
The CPET tray complies with the world's strictest food safety regulations, outperforming alternative packing in the market.
It keeps food safe between -40 degrees celsius and +220 degrees celsius, making it the first plastic food packaging tray that is oven safe.
It also has the highest recycled content and is truly 100% recyclable.
Learn more about how the circular economy is revolutionising the plastic packaging industry;
Why are we not recycling and reusing current trays in circulation?
Many trays including the industry standard black PP trays, are not detectable on the recycling belt within current recycling infrastructure in Australia, meaning they get sent to landfill and don’t get the opportunity to be recycled.
The new CPET trays will vary in colour for each new recycled batch as they are made from a variety or recycled materials.
The pastel palettes and colourful trays have ensured that they are detectable by existing sorting infrastructure in Europe and Australia which then allows for them to be sent to a facility to be recycled and made into new food safe products again and again.
This is the model we will be adopting in the hope that this will soon become our reality within Australia.
So is plastic bad?
No. Plastic is considered a natural resource.
Plastic waste is what should be considered bad.
World wide, the current infrastructure for collecting and recycling plastic is what has failed us. Not the plastic itself.
Plastic uses less carbon to manufacture and transport when compared to other alternatives.
Wasting it, and not recycling it properly is what causes the devastating environmental impacts.
Emmanuel Duffaut, Sustainability Director at Retal believes that used plastic bottles made from PET plastic are not rubbish and should be considered as a valuable raw material because they require a lot less energy to produce, process and recycle than that of a glass bottle or aluminium can.
PET resin and general plastic melt at considerably lower temperatures of 200-300 degrees celsius, where glass or aluminium melt at over 1000 degrees celsius, releasing much more carbon emissions.
The carbon footprint of recycled PET is half of the carbon footprint of virgin PET, or single use plastic.
Studies found in the Plastic Paradox, conclude that replacing plastics with alternative materials is actually far worse for the environment than using plastic. Alternative materials use far more energy leading to far more carbon dioxide emissions, more waste and far more materials used.
“It would take 64 million tons of alternative material to replace 14 million tons of plastic.” DeArmitt FRSC, Dr Chris . The Plastics Paradox (pp. 41-42).
See Diagram from Lifecycle inventory of three single-serving soft drink containers, Franklin Associates, August 2009 (figures are per 100,000 ounces of soft drink);
Why are we failing to recycle?
We should see this circular system as an advancement in food packaging, an opportunity to embrace plastic and adopt new recycling processes which support our natural environment and future sustainability.
PET is not currently collected efficiently, nor is our current recycling infrastructure set up to support this circular system of recycling.
For example, in 2018 3.3 million tonnes of PET bottles were sold within the European market with only 60% being collected.
Only 45% of PET bottles were recycled into new bottles.
More than 1.8 million tonnes of PET bottles were wasted, ending up in the ocean, in landfill or incinerated.
These valuable raw materials were wasted and could have become new packaging.
Going off the success in Europe with the tray to tray food packaging initiative, CMActive, the supplier here in Australia, hopes to mimic that of its overseas counterparts, just on a proportionally smaller scale.
Recycling processes, technologies and food packaging capabilities are evolving, supporting our ability to recycle more material more effectively.
Dr. Chris DeArmitt FRSC, World-class plastic materials scientist believes the recycling issue is directly with sorting. “To recycle plastics, you first need to sort them, so that you recycle PE waste together with only PE waste, PP waste with PP waste, and so on. It is harder to sort conventional black plastics automatically because the machines that check the type of plastic work based on light, so they don't work properly on black parts which absorb all the light.”
The process of recycling seems easy. Sort by type, grind and remelt them into new shapes for re-use.
According to Chris, 87% of plastics can be recycled if the right facilities are present.
Chris also states that one reason why our recycling facilities are not set up with more sorting and recycling strategies may be due to the fact that recycled plastics are often more expensive than new virgin material due to the processes involved. They also may not look as appealing as virgin plastics. The recycled content may be discoloured and less aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Plastic packaging has a terrible reputation in the public eye with many individuals and organisations striving for zero plastic and plastic free alternatives.
This mindset does not factor in the fact that without plastic, we can not survive or function in our modern world.
So what are plastics?
According to the Association of Plastics Manufacturers Europe, plastics are a wide range of semi-synthetic or synthetic materials, designed to make human life safer, easier and enjoyable.
You will find plastics in the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, in the medical equipment and procedures used to save lives and in the cars we travel in daily.
“Plastics have ushered in a technological revolution leading to stunning advances in our quality of life. Plastic pipes deliver clean drinking water and plastic-insulated wires deliver electricity.” DeArmitt FRSC, Dr Chris . The Plastics Paradox (p. 15).
Plastics can be considered an organic material as they are the by-product of many natural processes and products like cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil.
What is crude oil? Crude oil is a naturally derived, unrefined petroleum. Also considered a type of fossil fuel. Once crude oil is refined it produces usable products including petrol, diesel, and various other forms of petrochemicals.
In short, as long as we drive our cars, plastic will be produced. What we do with that resource and how we re-use it, is the real question we should be asking.
“Without plastic, we would have no electricity, no cell phones, no laptops or computers of any kind, and no internet to use them on. Many people are not aware of the many uses of plastics and what a plastic-free world would really mean.” DeArmitt FRSC, Dr Chris . The Plastics Paradox (p. 19).
“Innovation when it comes to plastic recycling is our opportunity to build a sustainable future. Closing the gap when it comes to our lack of education and poorly designed recycling systems, is where we need to begin. Naturally occurring byproducts like plastic should be used, recycled and reused in circulation.” Gareth Sharples, Co-Founder of Garden of Vegan.
What about packaging or products claiming to be biodegradable, degradable, planet safe, green, environmentally friendly or compostable?
A very small minority of these alternatives are “home compostable”. Most labeled “compostable” products are often not home compostable at all, but only industrially compostable.
For example, that biodegradable or compostable coffee cup with the “green” logo on it, from your local coffee spot may not decompose at all in your home compost. It should however break down quickly inside the right kind of industrial composting plant.
If a compostable alternatives was to break down slowly in landfill where there is low to no oxygen, it would create methane, which is a powerful and harmful greenhouse gas.
If broken down in an industrial composting plant where the operating temperatures are around 60 degrees or above and are designed to allow moisture and oxygen, the composting will happen quickly without the release of dangerous amounts of methane.
More options and new plastic alternatives don’t always mean the best options for the environment. “...10 different means of packaging and 10 different methods will never get up in volume. If we all use the same plastic, we will end up with 10 times the amount of plastic we can use.”
Ewan Macpherson, Director at CMActive
This ultimately means greater opportunity to recycle and reuse, abolishing single use plastics or other single use materials.
Even paper and cardboard packaging is still considered single use and requires more energy to produce then PET plastic.
Reusing items is a true green alternative, rather than single use by simply throwing items away.
By reusing, this means less waste in general. As each individual product is used for longer, it delays disposal.
This can apply to packaging, which can be washed and used multiple times before needing to be thrown out.
Rather than giving into market trends or the need for what is ‘in fashion’, as consumers we can ensure we reuse as many products as we can to minimise our waste and carbon footprint.
Human behaviour is the problem to address, whereas the product or material is the effect.
Creating Circularity in food packaging
After use, PET trays can be fully recycled. This is not just a claim, but a reality.
Tray to tray recycling on an industrial scale can exist and is a success currently in many overseas countries piloting this innovation.
1. Production of PET resin
Once in the recycling plant, all plastics of all colours are detected, including black, producing flakes and pellets ready to be processed into new products of the same quality.
2. Production of PET packaging
From flakes or pellets, sheets are made and then formed into trays with no loss of micro plastics into the environment. This process is done in factories powered by renewable energy.
3. Production of branded and packaged goods
These containers are then sent out to companies to fill them with food.
4. Consumption and collection
They are then sent directly to the consumer or to retail stores. Once used, they get placed in the recycling bin and then the circle begins again.
Once collected then the used CPET is sorted and recycled.
Leading us back to step number 1.
This is a breakthrough within the industry, abolishing single use plastics as this cycle will continuously repeat again and again.
So Why did Garden of Vegan align with CMActive
Hear what Ewan Macpherson, Director at CMActive has to say...
CMActive are the Australian and New Zealand packaging partner for Danish company Faerch. Faerch are the leading manufacturer of prepared convenience food packaging and provide over 1.2 billion plastic trays into UK retail and over 5 billion trays to Europe as a whole.
In response to the global issues of wasted plastic Faerch have been working on several initiatives to address the future sustainability of their product range. The most recent being the launch of a new type of CPET called CPET Evolve by Faerch.
In summary the following comments can be made:
CPET Evolve is manufactured from up to 80% Post-Consumer Recycled materials, predominantly APET drinking bottles but also other trays.
The trays contain no masterbatch colourant, being produced in the colour available on the day, creating a range of pastel shades. The different palettes of colour enable consumers to easily recognise they use a recycled and circular product.
CPET Evolve is 100% NIR (near infrared) detectable and 100% recyclable back into food grade plastic.
Evolve has been adopted by nearly 90% of UK retailers. The sleeves all encourage consumers to put trays in the recycling bin, thus generating significant volumes of raw material for recycling.
Over the last decade Faerch have invested heavily in many recycling and sustainability programs to achieve world leading recognition in environmental strategies:
- Reduction of carbon emission to neutrality
- Production from 100% renewable energies
- Most recently, to secure a truly circular position in the market, the addition of a recycling facility to their portfolio.
Tray 4 Tray Initiatives
With the acquisition of 4PET, Faerch are now the world’s first integrated plastic packaging supplier to achieve a circular economy for recycling food trays on an industrial scale. To learn more, view the 4PET acquisition video;
Faerch are already importing CPET from several countries across Europe and expanding this to include the Middle East & Asia. The aim is to also include Australia through CMActive’s Tray 4 Tray return scheme.
CMActive in partnership with Faerch are inviting Australian retailers and meal producers to join in their Tray 4 Tray program that will return a tonne of recycled PET for every tonne sold through retail, food service and on-line.
Achieving 2025 PCR Targets
There needs to be a focus on end of life strategies to encourage the whole system to align, to do this, making good material choices at the front end is extremely important. Given the government initiative to include in all packed products 50% recycled content by 2025, CPET is the only plastic material suitable to use in the food industry that can contain such high levels of content. Most others like Polypropylene (which is a current industry standard, can only be made from 100% virgin materials for food grade applications and can only be down-cycled into items like park benches, bollards, bins, etc.
Some businesses are even using 100% virgin board materials that if left in the same state as they were sold would be diverted to landfill even though they state the whole thing to be 100% recyclable. As mentioned, there is a lot of confusion out there and a plentiful dose of Greenwashing too. Making fact based and correct choices when it comes to packaging is paramount, not emotional ones.
Faerch have conducted multiple research programs into the value of PET and educating where possible on making the correct material choices to design for circularity. PET is the superior product.
The following links detail some of their activities to date:
- Food Packaging for a Circular Economy
- Material Choice Matters
- From 8 Days to Infinity
- Circularity is Not a Distant Vision
- How The Circular Economy Is Revolutionising The Plastics Packaging Industry
So what about CPET and recycling here in Australia?
CMActive are working tirelessly to set up a tray for tray and tone for tone system within Australia, to mimic that of their European counterpart. For every tonne of trays sold, their aim is to buy 100% back from recycling facilities, to establish the circulatory system.
These brand new CPET trays have been introduced into Coles and Woolworths with some manufacturers jumping on board already.
We just need more and more food manufacturing companies to align with this circulatory model, for a true solution in waste management.
A quantitative market survey conducted in 2018 showed that over 8.8 million Australians opt for ready made meals weekly, as a part of their grocery shopping experience.
This accounts for hundreds of millions of containers in circulation as we speak.
The change to 100% recyclable and circularity in packaging means that consumers don't need to stress about plastic reduction when making their decisions on what to buy each week.
Why are we sharing all this information?
Because it is up to us as individuals and business owners to work together on a forward solution when it comes to waste and our current recycling methods.
Join us in making the entire food packaging industry circular!
The Plastics Paradox; Facts For A Brighter Future, DeArmitt FRSC, Dr Chris, 2020
How The Circular Economy Is Revolutionising The Plastics Packaging Industry; https://www.forbes.com/sites/businessreporter/2020/02/20/how-the-circular-economy-is-revolutionising-the-plastics-packaging-industry/?sh=61a80e803d93
Why biodegradables won’t solve the plastic crisis; https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191030-why-biodegradables-wont-solve-the-plastic-crisis
Creating circularity in food packaging on an industrial level