post

Commercial Composting

Ever wonder about how much waste we really throw away each year? Well, studies estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes to waste 30 to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes to waste, often ending up in landfills. In 2014, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that the U.S. tosses over 3.8 million tons of food every single year.

That’s tragic because so many people in the world are going hungry. Food waste also contributes to global warming and disposing of it costs a lot of money. Using our food more efficiently would be a more permanent solution to the problem, but there are some things we can do to improve our disposal process as well. With composting, disposal doesn’t have to mean the end of food’s useful life and may even have some positive environmental attributes.

How Composting Works

Composting allows us to recycle organic materials, including many food items, yard waste, animal products and paper products. It uses a natural process that’s integral to life here on earth, the decomposition process that breaks down these materials into rich soil from which plants can grow.

Composting takes that natural phenomenon and accelerates it using one of several different methods. Individuals and families can compost their food and yard waste in their own backyards. Large companies sometimes compost their own leftover materials. Some local governments also organize composting operations, and local businesses might offer composting services to nearby residents. These services can be a perfect, easy-to-use solution to our organic waste disposal problem.

Composting Methods

Beyond simple backyard composting, there are a number of methods that large-scale composting operations employ.

  • Aerated Static Pile Composting

One of the simplest methods for composting large amounts of waste is aerated static pile composting. It involves placing well-mixed organic waste into a large pile, along with bulking agents such as woodchips or shredded paper. This method can produce compost within three to six months.

  1. Aerated Windrow Composting

Aerated, or turned, windrow composting involves placing waste in rows that are about four to eight feet tall and 14 to 16 feet wide. These rows, called windrows, must be turned occasionally so that the inner part of the pile ends up in the outside and vice versa. This method is ideal for particularly large amounts of waste.

  1. In-Vessel Composting

In-vessel compost allows for more control of the composting process and produces results quickly. In this method, compost is placed into contained spaces such as large drums, enclosed tunnels or other containers where machinery regularly turns it. This produces usable composts in a few weeks to a few months.

How to Get Involved

Other popular methods of disposing of household organic waste, such as garbage disposals, can be useful but don’t have all the same capabilities as composting. Garbage disposals, for instance, can’t handle solid items like peach pits. Regular trash collection has environmental consequences.

Composting can take care of many different kinds of waste, is environmentally friendly compared to other methods and produces a useful end result – compost that can be used to grow crops and other plants.

Many people don’t have room, time or ability to compost their own waste. For these people, commercial composting methods are the solution. Contact your local government and search for nearby businesses to see if organic waste collection and composting services exist in your area — and whether you can get some freshly made compost for your garden.

Bio:

Emily is a sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

Please note…

This post was written by the contributor.

Read more about composting, compost bins and other rotten posts HERE

Guest Post & Plastic Free Promotions

We love to feature guest posts. If you have something to say about #plasticfree living let us know.

If you have a plastic free project, take a look at the submissions  featured in the PfU.K. Directory .

And the Pf U.K. Directory is…?
…a directory of UK-based groups, organisations businesses and individuals who are responding to the problems presented by the misuse of plastic. That does not mean anti-plastic necessarily… but certainly plastic-problem aware.

NB we reserve the right
not to post
to remove guest posts.

Cellophane plant derived and biodegradable plastic

 A guest post from Michael Bloch blogging up on Green Living Tips.com

Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact .
We see many news stories about developments in the plastics industry to make these items greener. With disposable plastic shopping bags being banned in some places and consumer concern acting as the writing on the wall for the industry, it’s certainly in the sector’s interest to make more environmentally friendly plastic bag and wrap products as soon as possible.

Degradable, compostable and biodegradable plastics may seem like recent inventions, but some have been around for a very long time. One such plastic is cellophane – and it’s now experiencing resurgence in popularity.

Cellophane being plant based didn’t click with me until I was doing some research recently for a restaurant employee who was looking for a biodegradable bag suitable for use with a particular food application – it was only then that it clicked with me the “cello” in cellophane stands for cellulose – the structural component of plants.

Cellophane was invented in 1900, but wasn’t commercially available until 1912. At that point it was mainly used for wrapping candy. When moisture-proof cellophane hit the market in the late 1920′s, it rapidly increased in popularity until the 60′s when alternative petro-chemical based plastics became popular – and we all know how that worked out for the planet.

Quite a few modern bioplastics use plants, but often they use corn as the primary component. Similar to using “food as fuel“; should we be using a grain or a crop grown on land suitable for producing food for non-food uses when arable land (without further deforestation) is becoming a diminishing resource?

Cellophane has an edge here as it can be made from farmed trees or from hemp; which can grow in relatively harsh conditions.

Regarding its composting and biodegradable attributes, I’ve read various reports stating uncoated cellulose film degrades within 10 days to 1 month when buried and nitrocellulose-coated cellulose in 2 months to 3 months. Complete biodegradation of cellulose film is between 1 – 2 months for uncoated products, and from 2.5 to 4 months for coated cellulose products. In a fresh water environment, the rate of biodegradation is only 10 days for uncoated film and a month for coated cellulose film.

As far as I know, corn based bioplastics take far longer to degrade and there’s also some issues with recycling bioplastics made with corn as they are currently classified as a number 7 plastic resin, meaning “other”.

That’s the good news about cellophane; but as with most things, there are some negative aspects too environmentally speaking.

Cellophane is made by dissolving plant fiber in alkali and carbon disulfide to create something called viscose. The viscose is then reconverted to cellulose in cellophane form after a sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate bath. The cellophane is  further treated with glycerol to make the dry cellophane less brittle. The cellophane may then be coated with nitrocellulose or wax to make it impermeable to water vapor. A few nasty chemicals in that process – for example, high levels of carbon disulfide are toxic; affecting the nervous system.

However, given the amount of processing and nasties it takes to turn petro-chemicals; i.e. chemicals derived from crude oil, into plastics and the damage those plastics do long after having been discarded, it would seem to me that cellophane is probably still better environmentally speaking. Stacked up against corn based plastic bags and wraps, the better/worse distinction is a little harder to discern.

Cellophane films and bags are readily available – just run a query on the terms in your favorite search engine to locate a stockist.

Tip: When composting cellophane, scrunch it up instead of laying it flat on your compost pile. This allows for air pockets and some air is necessary when composting any material.

Trivia: another plastic product that’s been around for at least a hundred years also based on plant material is linoleum.

Find out more about compostable and other types of plastic here

post

Cup to Compost – National trust, Boscastle

Our tour in the plastivan took us through Boscastle, a lovely old harbour and coastline maintained by the fantastic National Trust. In addition to keeping footpaths open and other essential maritime maintenance, they operate a cafe shop and visitor center (with immaculate toilets), down by the harbour. So far so good!

Not so good was that the cafe was using disposable paper cups! Eeek! As you know, most paper cups are in fact plastic lined and so not very disposable. Bah! Was just about to turn round and leave when I noticed that these cups were from Vegware. Vegware dont line their cardboard cups with the usual conventional non biodegradable plastic but a certified compostable lining. You can read more here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now I wanted to take photos! And ask lots of questions! Which Jon kindly answered.  As he says”… when the cafe first opened in 2009, there wasn’t a modern conventional sewage system in Boscastle, and all the waste that would normally go for treatment went straight into the sea. Because of this, we were reluctant to have a commercial dish washer in the cafe that would have just contributed to this waste, and so looked for viable alternatives. Finding a fully compostable solution in the cups, cup sleeves, plates and wooden cutlery was part of the solution to this problem, but without making sure that they were composted afterwards it wouldn’t have been such a positive environmental statement from what is, after all, a conservation charity…. we collect the cups, cup holders, plates and the untreated wooden cutlery that we use, and they are taken to a local farmer who shreds them. He then mixes them with his green waste and composts them into a peat free mulch substitute. This mulch is hen taken to the National Trust plant nurseries at Lanhydrock House near Bodmin, who grow, amongst all the other plant, the plants that are sold in the National Trust shop that adjoins the cafe in Boscastle. By doing it this way, we not only successfully recycle the disposables from the national Trust Cafe in Boscastle, but we contribute to saving the limited resources of peat bogs.”

Well done you!

post

Seed Compost

Want to make your own plastic-free compost for growing seeds in? Using only this years fallen leaves?
OK its not a quick process, you are planning 2 years ahead here, but it is free – cash free as well as plastic free. Well if you use a metal bin.

Gather up the  fallen leaves
Keep them dark and dry for a while

I use a bin with a tight fitting lid and leave them for 2 years. If I was a real purist I would use a metal bin. However I actually use a plastic bin because that is what I have got.
You can also use a plastic bag. Gasp.

The result is a fine crumbly mould that can be used for your seedlings. Really it’s as simple as that – but for those of you who like know more there are detailed instructions here and here

More

We love composting. You can see all our composting posts HERE
And all our gardening posts HERE

you can buy galvanised bins like these from Amazon and  eBay

 

post

Compostable Plastic Products

Compostable plastics come in various forms and are made in different ways. You can read all about compostable plastics here

Composting Plastic At Home 
While most agree that some  plastics are indeed biodegradable and compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.

But  I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. Including   Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery)
I have occasionally composted cellulose.
Both take longer than “natural” materials  and  sometimes I have found shreds in my compost but I dig it into the soil where it quickly disappears.
The thicker the PLA the longer it takes.
PLA Lined paper cups disappear in no time, the cutlery hung around for ages.

What is biodegradable?
Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here
What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432. You can find out more here.

To be sure you are using a compostable plastic get one that has been certified compostable. Check out the logo.

Read more about compostable plastics here

We have used and composted the following products.

PLA Compostable Plastic Bags

These disposable, water-resistant bags are great for
fish and meat
Frozen foodstuffs and freezer bags.

Deli pots PLA

Waterproof plastic pots with lids are great for all manner of deli delights including
Cream cheese
Olives
Deli counter lovelies
They can also be used to storefood in the freezer.

Disposable Cutlery  for  our big party PLA

The remains of my cellulose sponge cloths and the PLA wrapper they came in.

Toilet Rolls

Greencane deliver toilet rolls are wrapped in cellophane, a compostable plastic. Which I compost. Find out more about Greencaneproducts here.

Compostable Plastic Products

Sponge Cloth Biodegradable

Oh joy - just sourced some plastic free sponge cloths. I love these things. Sponge cloths are  extremely porous and great for ...
Read More

Glitter biodegradable

Yes you can get biodegradable glitter and this Etsy company sell it in compostable packaging. Yay! Overview Handmade item Materials: ...
Read More

Vegware – compostable fast-food disposables

Vegware is the UK's first and only completely compostable packaging company. Vegware is forging and leading its own new sector – combining ...
Read More

Pet bowls biodegradable

For the plastic free pooch in your life, a biodegradable plastic food bowl! "Eco-friendly and functional, Becothings are tough and ...
Read More

Cardboard Cups & Pots

So you find what looks like a cardboard container full of yummy ice cream or you see that your favourite ...
Read More

Dog poop bags and composting waste

This is something I really hate …. plastic bags of dog @*%! hanging from the bushes. But then plastic bags ...
Read More

Disposable Cups

Disposable cups are made from plastic lined paper, polystyrene or plastic. To make paper cups water proof they are laminated with polyethylene, ...
Read More

iPhone Case

So I was given an iPhone by my very dear kind and generous friend when he upgraded. Never been so ...
Read More

Straws Compostable

The picture shows a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose (You can watch the video in full ...
Read More

Snact in compostable packaging

Snacks... so good when trekking, so hard to source plastic free. The best we have is loose nuts as sold ...
Read More

Green cane Tissues/ Paper Products

A while ago a company called Greencane sent me some tissues through the post. Not just tissues but toilet paper and kitchen ...
Read More

Plant Pots Compostable

Took this form a very interesting article here. I will be looking into them more closely in the future Low-‘e’ ...
Read More

Cutlery – disposable & compostable

Though it's not the greenest option there are times when disposable partyware is the only choice. For our last big bash, ...
Read More

PLA Starch Bags – compostable plastic bags.

PLA starch bags are described as a compostable plastic.Which can be confusing as they are a very different product from ...
Read More

Pots – PLA compostable

These  deli pots are  made from  PLA plastic. This looks and acts just like plastic but is made from corn starch ...
Read More

Companies using compostable plastic.

Snact

Our new innovative packaging, developed by Israeli start-up TIPA, is just as durable and impermeable as ordinary plastic – but it biologically decomposes within just 180 days and becomes a fertiliser for soil, behaving similarly to an orange peel. Read more here.

Vegware
A while ago I got sent some Vegware stuff to review. Vegware make disposable, compostable packaging for the fast-food industry. Hooray for them …. but I am not in fast food. So what would I be using them for? For starters…

Eco For Life 
If you must drink bottled water this might interest you; water packaged in PLA compostable plastic bottles

More

Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and some are not as green as they sound

Find out more about composting here

post

Composting Standards

Composting accelerates the natural process of biodegrading or rotting down organic waste material into a rich soil or compost. Its the only sustainable way to deal with our waste… we love it.

Biodegradable means …..
Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism, such as fungi or bacteria over a period of time.
They must degrade into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem.
You can read more about that HERE

Compostable means…..
To be classed compostable, items must
Biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades.)The resulting particles must be very small.
The resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.

Composting Standards
For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the
European Norm EN13432
This is a EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), EN 13432:2000 – “Packaging: requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation”
It was introduced in 2000.
It has been adopted by the UK and is published as BS EN 13432 by the British Standards Institution.
Comprehensive evidence has to be submitted before a product gets ‘compostable’ certification.

Home Composting V Industrial Composting

HOWEVER compostable in this instance means that these certified products will break down in an industrial composters.
Industrial composting are large scale schemes.
Home composting is a bin in your back yard.
The difference is is that industrial composting is a lot hotter and can work more quickly.
Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard compost bin.

Home Composting

Vinçotte, a Belgian accredited inspection and certification organisation,  provide a home composting certification service. Products that display the ‘OK Compost Home’ logo, can go in your bin.

The Association for Organics Recycling is working to establish a similar specification for the UK.

Compostable Plastics

Cellulose derived plastics such as Cellophane. These plant derived plastics are amongst the first examples of the product and do biodegrade. ­
Starch based plastics which are compostable such as PLA plastics. They are certified compostable and do biodegrade.

Composting Compostable Plastic At Home
While most agree that compostable plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in industrial composters. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.
AND I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted a number of products (including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery)
It does take longer than other products and  sometimes I have found shreds of it in my compost but I dig it into the soil where it quickly disappears.

Bioplastics
Most compostable plastics are bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from natural materials such as corn starch. However not all are compostable. For example Ethane based plastics as used Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle which replaces 30 percent of the ethanol in their normal polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle with 30 percent plant-derived ethanol. This means the bottle is still considered PET and can be recycled but is NOT biodegradable. Find out more here.

To be sure you are getting a compostable plastic get one that has been certified.

More

Check out all our composting posts HERE

Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and do not biodegrade – bioplastics dont mean biodegradable. Yup its confusing but try everything you ever wanted to know about plastic.but were too scared to ask, to find out a lot more about plastic.

post

Polylactic acid, (PLA)

There are some truly biodegradable and compostable bioplastics.
Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here.
To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.

Compostable Plastics – PLA

Polylactic acid, (PLA), plastic is an example of a biodegradable bioplastic. PLA or polylactide was discovered in 1932 by Carothers (at DuPont). (Whats a bioplastic? Find out here)

PLA is a bio-polymer
Bio-polymers can be produced from natural resources
A natural bio-polymers is one that is extracted directly from biological raw materials such as cellulose and cotton from plants, wool from sheep and silk from moths
Man made bio-polymers are also derived from plants but then further treated using chemicals.

Poly-lactic acid (PLA), falls into this category.
PLA is made from the starch found in plants including beets, sugar cane, and tapioca.. Starch is a natural polymer, a white, granular carbohydrate produced by plants during photosynthesis Starch can be made into bio-plastic. However when exposed to water starch bio-plastic swells and deforms.To stop this happening the starch needs to be modified

Starch is transformed into PLA by;
1) Using microorganisms to transform it into a lactic acid – a monomer
2) Then chemically treating the lactic acid to create a long chain polymer, polylactic acid – PLA

There are several different types of Polylactic Acid
Racemic PLLA (Poly-L-lactic Acid),
Regular PLLA (Poly-L-lactic Acid),
PDLA (Poly-D-lactic Acid),
and PDLLA (Poly-DL-lactic Acid).

Recycling

PLA can be recycled back into lactic acid and used to make products of the same quality as the original- there is no down-cycling. Currently only recycled in Wisconsin and Belgium.

Biodegradable

PLA products biodegrade into water, carbon dioxide and organic materials. and so can be composted.

“First, the moisture and heat in the compost pile split the polymer chains apart, creating smaller polymers, and finally, lactic acid. Micro-organisms in compost and soil consume the smaller polymer fragments and lactic acid as nutrients. Since lactic acid is widely found in nature, a large number of organisms metabolize lactic acid.  The end result of composting is carbon dioxide, water and humus, a soil nutrient.  This degradation process is temperature and humidity dependent. “
In commercial composters this should take about 30-45 days. In home composting bins it might take longer. Obviously the bulkier the product the harder it is to break down, and the longer it takes.

Rotting Away

a PLA bottle left in the ocean will biodegrade in six to 24 months.
It can be used for medical implants that biodegrade over time

NB PLA will not compost in landfill.

Composting PLA Plastic At Home
While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.
Moreover I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted the following PLA plastic products ( including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery  )

The Rest

Are PLA products safe to eat?
People …PLA products are not edible yet are generally non-toxic. Small pieces of PLA will most likely pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract. Once passed through the gastrointestinal tract it will be eliminated in the stool. 
Pigs …PLA can apparently be returned to the food chain. I have heard it suggested that you can feed it to your pig. Please double check.
I am allergic to corn; could I still use PLA products?
Yes, the heat used in the process of deriving the starch from corn destroys the immunologically reactive profiilin. Profilin is the chemical that usually causes an allergic reaction and is not found in PLA products.

Burning PLA Plastic
PLA will not emit toxic fumes when incinerated.

Useful stuff to know

Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and some are not as green as they sound
Find out about composting here.

PLA products I use  

post

iPhone Case

So I was given an iPhone by my very dear kind and generous friend when he upgraded. Never been so excited. Until now my phone has been an ancient Nokia that was sturdy but certainly not smart. So along with all the useful apps (turn yourself into a zombie), and joining Instagram, I needed to buy a case. Getting a plastic free one is not easy so so when I saw these wooden cases for sale on eBay I was overjoyed. I foolishly thought they were made out of wood.That they had actually carved the entire case out of a block of wood.

Of course they hadn’t. It was a slip of wood stuck onto a plastic case. Really I am so dumb sometimes.

But if you do want a biodegradable iPhone case you could try these compostable plastic cases from Pela. I haven’t tried them as I now have not really wooden case. But if I had my time again….

Heres some stuff from the website:
“Our mission is to make durable, eco-friendly, and biodegradable products as an alternative choice to conventional plastic products.”
“Our phone case is made with a unique blend of non-toxic, plant-based biopolymers mixed with annually renewable flax shive. Our cases will biodegrade in a composting environment which means less waste in our landfills and oceans.”

Sadly you have to import these from America which might make them rather less eco-friendly and they say nothing of the onward packaging though I would guess a company as aware as this one would have that covered. If you find out do let us know.

Or you could try making one

iPod or iPhone Case Stand | AllFreeSewing.com.

See all our office and electronics posts HERE

post

Envelopes

One years worth of junk mail for one person in the US equals about 2 feet. Most of these letters are credit card offers says Dan MacFarlane Which leads me on to my mail and the envelopes in particular. It’s those horrid little windows that are the bloody awful icing on the stale cake of junk mail.

In today’s market, four types of window coverings are used

  • 1. Polystyrene: a plastic film designed specifically for the needs of high-speed envelope production;
  • 2. Cellulose based films, such as: glassine and acetate films;
  • 3. PLA: a new film derived from corn; and
  • 4. Other plastic films used for specific, non-standard applications.

But who can tell the difference – not me. And even if they could you know they are not going to be recycled.

Envelopes with windows are no good for Plastic Free Freaks – especially when all they contain is rubbish.

While I might not be able to ban every envelope from my life I can stop a lot coming through my door.

  • I have converted to paperless billing for all my services.
  • On the rare times I have to send a letter I only use windowless envelopes.
  • The war on junk mail is being waged.

Ways To Stop Junk Mail

Thankfully I have this wonderful man with his infinitely detailed website, (listing all the ways you can stop junk mail), to help me. You can read about him below or go straight to his website here

Compostable envelopes

Envelope makers! You could try this for your window envelopes

“Low scratch, compostable film specifically formulated for use in envelope windows. Meets USPS readability standards for window envelope film. Tinted with a light green hue.”

More

Find other plastic free office supplies and electronics, here.

Diary of a Junk Mail Campaigner

My blog (‘Diary of a Junk Mail Campaigner’) deals with anything I feel people should know about junk mail. It explains – usually at length – how people can reduce unsolicited mail and why stamping out junk mail is not as easy as signing up to the Mailing Preference Service. It investigates whether of not self-regulation by the direct marketing industry can make junk mail more sustainable and exposes the endless stream of junk mail research (invariably showing that direct mail is valued and welcomed by 110% of the population) for what it is; junk research. Occasionally there’s something ‘fun’ on the blog – interesting junk mail art, a video, or just a nice story – but in general the blog is dead boring. As a source for information about junk mail it’s unrivalled though…”

The same description could apply to the website (www.stopjunkmail.org.uk). The aim is to provide detailed and independent information about reducing junk mail. Being a web designer I’m very aware that for instance the Guide to Stamping Out Junk Mail is far too long – few people have a long enough attention span to read through it all. But then the aim is not to entertain people and there are already plenty of websites with short (but incomplete) guides to reducing junk mail. In an attempt to provide the information in a more compact format I set up the website www.junkbuster.org.uk a while ago.

It’s build around the Junk Buster application which people can use to contact up to six opt-out services in one go. I like to describe it as a one-point-stop for reducing junk mail. As for achievements, since the launch of Junk Buster many people have become aware that it’s possible to opt-out of receiving paper directories (people can opt out of the Yellow Pages, Thomson Local Directory and BT Phone Book via the application). None of the directories tell the public that they have this option but after Junk Buster was featured in the Telegraph, Daily Mail and Independent in March things started to change; the Data Publishers Association has now for the first time acknowledged that people can opt out. 192.com is actively campaigning for a central opt-in scheme for directories and I reckon they may achieve their goal.

Another achievement is that Royal Mail is no longer secretive about how many (few!) people register with its Door-to-Door Opt-Out (which stops unaddressed mail delivered by the postman). In 2008 a Royal Mail Manager accidentally told me the figure was less than 0.5% of all UK households. The figure became public knowledge and just a couple of months ago the company publicly confirmed that the figure is currently 0.7%. At the same time the Direct Marketing Association confirmed that only 0.0006% (!!) of households is registered with its Your Choice Scheme. Having these figures out in the open is important because it undermines the industry’s argument that stopping junk mail is easy – if opt-out rates are so negligible something is clearly not working…

Finally, I spent much of my time giving people advice on how to solve their junk mail misery. In a way the campaign is about tackling the junk mail problem, one piece of junk mail at a time. I guess it will keep me occupied for some time to come .

 

post

Straws Compostable

The picture shows a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose (You can watch the video in full here). Every years hundreds of thousand plastic straws end up polluting the environment. Ecocycle estimate that 500 million straws are used in the US every day alone.

If you must have disposable straws, (and none of these great reusable options suit), then why not try these compostable ones made from cornstarch. They look and act  just like  plastic straws…  but they are made from PLA cornstarch and are certified compostable.

Find out more about compostable plastic here.

You can buy them from Vegware. They do everything from black cocktail (1000 for 10.00)  to jumbo smoothie.

I have seen  paper straws on ebay but (as far as I know), they are not certified compostable and  may be plastic lined. They certainly are plastic packed.

Any one know any more?

Composting

One type of certified compostable plastic is  Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) plastic.

Some say that PLA plastics do not break down in home compost bins. THEY ARE WRONG. We have used and composted a number of  PLA plastic products.

You can see the PLA products we have used here.

More

Or you can try these  reusable stainless steel beauties or glass straws. 

post

Cutlery – disposable & compostable

Though it’s not the greenest option there are times when disposable partyware is the only choice. For our last big bash, some years ago now, we bought disposable cutlery made from PLA compostable plastic. It is just like normal plastic cutlery, tough and hard wearing. So much so it can be washed and reused – at least we do… and are still doing so.
The cutlery is really useful for picnics and outdoor parties. We always leave stuff behind and we don’t feel too bad about loosing this.

We got ours from Denny’s. They also do compostable straws, plates and glasses. In fact everything you need for entertaining.

Since we bought, a lot more companies have started to offer compostable party ware and new products are appearing all the time. It would be worth looking around.

Composting
There are those who say you cannot compost PLA plastic in home composters. We did. The knives did biodegrade. It took some time but it happened. However we do have a Green Joanna, the queen of compost bins.

Renting
We rented the extra stuff we needed for the party from a catering company . We probably could have hired cutlery too but we were curious to try the cornstarch stuff.

post

PLA Starch Bags – compostable plastic bags.

PLA starch bags are described as a compostable plastic.Which can be confusing as they are a very different product from conventional, oil-derived plastics. Many people dismiss the compostable claim despite them being certified compostable  See plastics and introduction for more on this.
PLA plastic  is made  from plant-based materials such as corn starch. You can find about more about starch derived plastics here .
Once again they are compostable and certified as such.

Same, same but different?

PLA bags are almost but not quite the same as conventional plastic bags. However they share enough similarities to make them a very useful substitute and can be a great tool in your plastic free armoury.
They are not quite as strong as conventional plastic bags so are not good as carrier bags but they are water proof for a limited amount of time, ( eventually there is seepage), but you can certainly use them to carry fish or meat home. 
They are compostable and despite what folks might say they can be composted in a garden compost bin. Read more about PLA and composting here

Biobags & Others
One example of PLA bags is sold by the company Biobags. Back in the early days they were amongst the first to sell  in the U.K. They have very good credentials. Their bags are certified to BS N13432 standard and are manufactured sustainably at facilities certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. BioBag is the world’s largest brand of certified biodegradable and compostable bags and films made from Mater-Bi®. Biobags are the bags used in Modbury the plastic free town.

These days many companies make and sell PLA bags and you can buy the from supermarkets.

NB do check you bag is certified compostable.

Compostable? 

What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432. You can find out more here.

What For & Which Size?

I use them for
fish and meat – (I ask that they use my bag instead of a plastic bag).
Buying loose frozen foodstuffs … yes you can frozen peas loose!
As freezer bags.

If you can get it, I find the 6 liter size best to take shopping. The 8 litre is obviously bin liner size, and eyebrows are raised when you ask to have your steak put in a bin liner..

Buy

PLA bags  can be bought from most big supermarkets. Biobags and other PLA bags can be found in hundreds of online shops  including Amazon & Ebay. Some suppliers are listed here.

Composting PLA Plastic At Home

While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.
AND I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted a number PLA plastic products (including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery)
It does take longer than other products and  sometimes I have found shreds of it in my compost but I dig it into the soil where it quickly disappears.

Read more about compostable plastics here

More

Find loose food outlets listed on the loose foods list
Other kinds of useful, plastic free bags are listed  here.

Greenwashing

And never forget that bio-degradable plastic bags do not biodegrade where as compostable plastic bags do compost. Not all bio-plastics (plant derived plastics) are compostable. Read more here.