Today, the vast majority of plastic food packaging is not recycled. However, plastic is not the issue here – let’s focus on its sustainable end-of-life!

Of the plastics reaching waste management systems, less than 30% are recycled and this rate is even lower if bottles and containers are not considered. 70% of plastics are landfilled or incinerated because recycling technologies are not mature enough … but also because a lot of plastic packaging is:

  • too thin, too small to be sorted

  • complex and made of multiple layers

  • soiled by food or leftovers.

The separate collection of biowaste for composting in industrial facilities, or home composting as an alternative that will become mandatory in all EU Member States from the end of 2023, offers a unique opportunity to extract the full value of bio-waste together with compostable packaging. Digesting or composting bio-waste in industrial digestion or composting plants results in compost or digestate plus biogas – such valuable resources – that can be used as soil improver and fertilizer. Although compostable plastics do not add nutrient value to compost, they do not harm compost quality in any way and have a role in supporting sustainable bio-waste management and increasing the volume of bio-waste collected.

PLA [polylactic acid] is currently the most affordable bio-based and biodegradable plastic but its biodegradability, and that of many other biodegradable biopolymers, is limited and not guaranteed in every environment.

In the last few years, significant Research & Development efforts have been deployed to make PLA fully compostable, even at ambient temperature. By using enzymes coming from nature and introducing them into a biodegradable polymer matrix, enzymated PLA packaging can disintegrate faster at ambient temperatureIt turns into compost in less than 8 weeks and allows PLA rich packaging to be certified “OK Compost Home”.

This solution, with pending TUV Austria certifications, will be tested within the SISTERS project.  It can help to reduce the build-up of plastic waste in the environment and incite to increase sorting of food waste and food packaging.

We believe that the SISTERS project, as a demonstrator, will convince to uptake innovative technologies in food packaging. It also comes at a time when the European Commission is making compostable packaging mandatory for several applications, such as tea bags, filter coffee pods and pads, fruit stickers, and very lightweight plastic carrier bags.

The transition has begun! Support composting for food packaging!