Why being 'Eco' is for dummies - by BCS

Published on 10/06/2019



BCS, a supplier on our Catering Consumables framework (45), discuss the true meaning of being ‘Eco’.
 
This isn't what you think, bear with me.
 
As a supplier of disposables we're often asked to assist in helping our customers to go 'Eco'.  The objectives we get back could easily be counted on, well, two fingers.

Once we've disposed of the standard "I want to save the planet at no extra cost or effort" and reluctantly accepted the real economies of being "properly eco" the line that emerges from the pulp of eco-confusion is "I want to be seen to be eco."

So they bind themselves for a range of products proudly wearing one of the famous four upon itself.  'Biodegradable', 'Compostable', 'Recyclable' or 'Recycled'.  "Even better if it has a picture of a leaf on it!" as one especially honest vendor of take away once barked at me.
 
The first three are possibilities that are there for the taking; hurrah! We'll come to the fourth later.
 
To take the first two, where will you biodegrade or compost your leafy tablewares?  Chances are that your saintly commitment to disposing of them won't motivate you enough to carry them around for too long.  But if you did carry them onto the train, into the office, and everywhere else throughout your busy day, you probably did not stumble across a facility for biodegrading your cup, cutlery, plate or box.  The best most of us would find is a recycling bin, and here's the newsflash; you can't recycle biodegradables or compostables.  
 
One hopes you didn't chuck it in there to ruin the batch that could have otherwise been recycled before your logo'd eco-cup joined the party!
 
The last of the three possibilities is to recycle.  In a way it's also selling an eco-dream, in that as long as it is possible, somewhere, somehow we're all free to badge our item as recyclable, and there's no harm in sticking a leaf on it for good measure.  
 
If your item happens to be made from one of the few viable materials that is easily recyclable, hurray!  Get it into that recycling bin and sleep well tonight; eco-smug.
 
For the most part, disposable food packaging is either complex (two materials bonded together) or cheap.  So cheap that it doesn't warrant burning fuel to take it to a recycling plant.  
 
So, it doesn't matter that the country in which you consume your lattes, has less than a handful of places to recycle your cup.  Or that the lid is so worthless, that unless you had a grande-sized lorry densely packed with them, it is not worth emitting the CO2 on transporting them to one of these clever plants.  So long as it said 'recyclable' on the side, you too can absolve yourself of any eco-guilt, hmm?!
 
Now, number 4 has some merit.  It's proud of what it's achieved, not shouting about what it might do next.  It's an item of action, not words.  What you are about to use for a few seconds had a past life and navigated the maze above to make its way to victory in a recycling plant somewhere and then to be reborn as your napkin, and justly awarded its badge to wear as 'Recycled'.
 
This article is about not being a dummy and the common thread is matching your product to the likely waste stream it will end up in; that's the smart bit.  What's right in Leicester is not right in Devon, or London, or Sheffield.
 
Our customers want to be seen to be doing the right thing, this is a breakthrough, they're motivated.
 
We're proud of the manufacturers making the fab four, they make the products available.

So we the distributors and our customers are being dummies for putting the wrong things in the wrong proverbial bins.  If you're supplying PLA plastics to your customers, have you at least provided them with a collection service to deal with it?  If not, do it.  Make that leafy badge on the side of your cups mean something!

Don't just be 'Eco', be 'Eco-Smart'.
 
If you would like to find out more about BCS or our Catering Consumables framework (45), click here.
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