What Makes a Sustainable, Zero Waste Company? The Challenges of Compostable Packaging
Here at ORSÚ, we think that skincare products do not need to be in plastic containers because there are suitable alternative materials such as grease-proof paper in which they can be wrapped. We are passionate about providing a brand that is as sustainable as it is convenient so that your wellbeing doesn’t come at the cost of the planet’s wellbeing. Whilst our products are loved for their organic and all-natural healing properties, it is our packaging that helps us really take the body care market by storm! All our packaging is 100% zero waste. Here’s how.
Marigold Balls, Oil and Balm
All of our products are specifically wrapped using eco-friendly packaging. The Marigold Balls come in glassine envelopes which are 100% cellulose. Cellulose is naturally occurring in the cell wall of plants and biodegradable – giving back to the plants which surround it as it decomposes.
Similarly, the Marigold Balm in cellulose, then wrapped in a sheet of glassine and then placed in its glassine envelope, complete with each and every ingredient printed on the outside.
The Marigold Oil is packaged in amber bottles which can be recycled in facilities using laser recognition and air separation technologies and is also available from large dispensers in bulk buy stores where people can bring refillable bottles.
The Lip Balm
Our newest product, the Marigold Lip Balm, is not just popular for its soothing, nourishing and protective properties but also for its revolutionary packaging. We have one of the very few lip balms in the world that is 100% compostable. How? The entire lip balm tube and cap is sustainably-sourced, post-consumer waste paper and is biodegradable.
Also the paper we use for market signs and printed communications is sustainable: we use Loop by Paper Back in London, which is “manufactured from 100% post-consumer waste fibre, FCF certified, carbon neutral and produced with wind power”.
What’s the Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable?
You’ll notice on sustainable products and packaging, the terms ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’. These processes are the same process but refer to whether they are carried out naturally in the environment or human-driven in a controlled environment. Both refer to the transformation of a material into carbon dioxide, water and new biomass. The transformation is aided by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and insects. Temperature, light and oxygen all affect the time within which this process happens.
Bear in mind that petroleum-based materials, what we generically call plastic, biologically decompose as well, but in the order of hundreds of years. Being around for a long time, plastic cause physical damages to animals such as mutilation, trapping them and leading to starvation, and suffocation. When it then start decomposing it breaks in small pieces that animals eat and it accumulates and occludes the stomach, and when it dissolve in even smaller fragments it chemically reacts and interacts with the animal physiology.
Plastic is widespread precisely because it is long-lasting and also because it is cheap to produce. Paradoxically, it was invented in the nineteenth century for limiting the use of animal-derived materials, such as their skin, bones and horns, use that was leading to species extinctions. Plastic is indeed a great material, but it should be used responsibly and avoided whenever there are alternatives.
Look Out for Greenwashing
Now that many consumers are concerned about reducing waste, lots of companies are marketing their products as green. As discussed at a recent talk at the British Library, a material professor and other academic speakers explained the challenge of material disposal and how some companies fail to explicitly advise consumers of the conditions of which their packaging decomposes.
Veolia, the waste management service for the UK and across Europe, recommends that you home compost our packaging, as, at present, saying “while small amounts of compostable packaging are ok with an ever increasing range of materials on the market many break down at different rates, some of which are not fully compatible with the in-vessel composting process used” at the waste disposal plants. Also, “Collection crews picking up the waste also have no easy way to tell the difference between compostable packaging and the non-compostable kinds increasing the likelihood of the whole load being spoilt if incorrect items are collected”.
At ORSÚ, we wanted to make sure our packaging decomposes, and we tested the speed of its decomposition in different conditions and seasons. Now we are running a web version of the decomposition, which you can follow at Compost Watch.
What do you think of the future of packaging? Is plastic over? Tell us your thoughts on instagram.
(The woodlice picture used in this blog image is © Jan J van Duinen, http://www.janvanduinen.nl/isopodaengels.php)