We love recycling! The team at Earthwise often get asked about the environmental impact of our products so we thought that Recycling Week would be the perfect time to talk packaging. We had a chat with our resident environmental chemist, Gill Worth, to get her take on recycling, composting and biodegradable plastics.
First up, what’s the difference between biodegradable and compostable?
There’s often confusion around these two terms: biodegradable materials break down when exposed to light, moisture and air while compostable materials need to be put in a system with aerobic microbes (bugs) to help break them down and process them. Composting is a warm process and the bugs need food, oxygen and moisture to keep them alive and thriving so that they can do their job.
Biodegradable plastics break down very slowly unless they are put in an appropriate composting system — and it’s worth knowing that neither biodegradable not compostable materials break down effectively in landfill due to an absence of moisture and good airflow. This means that, unless your local council runs a commercial composting system that handles biodegradable plastics, recycling is your next best option.
Most people are familiar with garden compost heaps or worm farms (vermicomposting) but large-scale commercial composting systems have been adopted by some local councils. Unfortunately, this technology is not available to the majority of New Zealanders yet.
So, what about recycling?
At Earthwise, we think about the four R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. In an ideal world we would all make choices that create less waste, the next best option is to reuse materials that would otherwise be considered waste, conserving the energy that’s gone into making them. If you can’t conserve all the energy by reusing, it’s best to save as much as we can by recycling. Finally, make sure single-use biodegradable or compostable materials, food and garden waste go into a council-run or home composting system.
At Earthwise, all our packaging is recyclable. We use the three plastics that are most easily recycled – grades one, two and four. Our laundry powder needs to go in airtight packaging because the environmentally-friendly ingredients that we use tend to absorb water, so we use a plastic bag made from grade four recyclable low-density polyethylene (LDPE). LDPE is one of the most commonly recycled types of plastic in New Zealand and is one of the targets of the Government’s Soft Plastics Recycling initiative. Launched two years ago, this initiative means that shoppers can take their packaging and plastic bags back to the supermarket for recycling. Last year Kiwis dropped off a massive 25 million plastic bags. This initiative is spreading throughout the country and plans to reach more than 70% of New Zealanders.
The packaging from our Cleaning, Nourish and Baby ranges can be recycled using your domestic recycle bin, but remember to rinse your containers first. Our laundry powder box is made from 100% recycled cardboard and is printed using vegetable inks. We’re delighted to report that our packaging approach has been approved by Environmental Choice NZ. And don’t forget — all of our Environmental Choice accredited products are made using biodegradable ingredients.
So, hopefully that’s answered any questions you have about our packaging – if you’d like to know more, feel free to contact us.
Happy recycling everyone!