A step closer towards plastic-free shopping

According to a Guardian newspaper investigation, supermarkets are a major source of plastic waste. It is estimated that they produce 1m tonnes of plastic waste every year.

Thus, the news that the Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza has opened Europe’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle, has been considered a turning point by campaigners. As Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet stated: “for decades shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink. A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic-free. Right now we have no choice.”

The store in Amsterdam has over 700 plastic-free products, including meat, rice, sauces, dairy, chocolate, cereals, yogurt, snacks, fresh fruit and vegetables: all available in one aisle. Ekoplaza has confirmed similar aisles will be created in all of its 74 branches by the end of the year.

Campaigners argue that the products will not be anymore expensive than plastic-wrapped goods. Furthermore, alternative biodegradable packing can be used, thus making the change more scalable and convenient.

The move to plastic-free shopping aisles will become more necessary in the UK due to the recent change in government environmental policies. Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, stated that the UK is committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042; in particular, waste such as the carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws, would be abolished.

However, to ensure that a plastic-free future can be achieved, it is important for supermarkets, and other retailers, to find cost-effective ways of reducing waste and monitoring sales. Vesta Smart Packaging can help with this: their smart containers know when they’re running low and will re-order the contents automatically (i.e. when the products are required). This will make it cheaper and easier to re-fill the items found on plastic-free shopping aisles.

Post-consumer recycled materials: where do they go?

With the rise of global environmental concerns, the need to reduce our reliance on raw materials has never been higher. But such change will not be easy: it requires us to make pro-active adjustments to our lifestyles and positive improvements to the ways in which products are made, used and, most importantly, re-used.

A recent report commissioned by the WWF and Resource Association (produced by Eunomia Research and Consulting, 20th November 2018,  demonstrates current flaws in the UK’s recycling system and outlines policy measures that could be used to transform it. This timely document provides detailed analyses on the effectiveness of different policy interventions; ideas that could be essential for the implementation of the imminent Resources and Waste Strategy for England.

It identifies a short-list of four types of policy measures to increase demand for recycled materials:
– Materials taxation
– A fee-rebate (or ‘feebate’) system
– Tradable credits
– The establishment of a single Producer Responsibility organisation.

The report considers the ‘feebate’ system to be the ‘most attractive policy option’ due to its “versatility in design, the reduced administrative complexity relative to the tax-based measure, and the stability of the incentive it gives”. It involves placing a levy on all packaging, which can then be refunded to organisations that demonstrate their use of post-consumer recycled materials. Thus, financial incentives would encourage companies to use recycled products and (through a system of certified credits) encourage them to pro-actively explore green solutions to their business needs.

This is where Vesta Smart Packaging could help. Using IoT technology, our smart containers know when they’re running low, and re-order their contents automatically. This not only encourages the consumer to use refillable, durable and smart alternatives, but also reduces waste, thereby creating efficient and sustainable business models that would comply with a ‘feebate’ system, if (or when?) such a policy is implemented.

Change is coming: prepare your business for the future with Vesta Smart Packaging.

Vesta selected for IoT Startup Bootcamp 2018

Vesta is thrilled to have been selected for Startupbootcamp IoT’s 2018 acceleration programme!

After a gruelling but great 3-day selection event in London, we were delighted to be invited to join the 3-month programme, working to make our smart refillable solutions a reality and helping consumers, merchants and most importantly the environment.

The next few months are going to be intense and very exciting as we prepare for formal trials with some of our merchant partners. We’re especially looking forward to getting to know the SBC partner network, and to learn from some of the best business mentors, hardware professionals, corporate partners, and investors around.

We can’t wait to get started. The countdown to October 15 begins!

Supermarkets Sign the UK Plastics Pact

In a salutary move, British supermarkets and food companies have launched a new voluntary pledge to cut plastic packaging.

In a first response to the growing awareness and anxiety around the plastic epidemic, most of the UK’s largest supermarkets signed up to support the UK Plastics Pact – an industry-wide initiative which says it aims to transform packaging and reduce avoidable plastic waste.

‘Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose are among the 42 businesses so far supporting the new pledge, which includes an aspiration that by 2025 all plastic packaging can be reused, recycled or composted.’

As The Guardian reports, the government has been debating introducing sanctions to a sector which has traditionally born no responsibility for waste disposal, and has been largely unregulated. By signing the pledge, supermarkets get ahead of parliament, and can begin to create their own recycling and re-use paradigms.

Refillable and reusable solutions are the future, and a combination of bio-friendly and intelligent packaging has the potential to create a real alternative to single-use plastics.

UK supermarkets launch voluntary pledge to cut plastic packaging

UK supermarkets launch voluntary pledge to cut plastic packaging

Critics say retailers can pick and choose whether to sign up to Plastics Pact, a series of pledges that have no enforcement mechanism

Source: www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/uk-supermarkets-launch-voluntary-pledge-to-cut-plastic-packaging

Devouring Plastic

The last month has seen two innovative responses to the plastic crisis, both of which involve the ecologically sound consumption of plastic.

The first involves an edible plastic substitute which not only breaks down naturally, but can be consumed by the very sea creatures which are typically harmed by the non-soluble traditional plastics. Taken to trial with can holders and straws, but applicable across the packaging industry, this offers a paradigm shift and gives waste a purpose:

Biodegradable 6-pack ring is edible to sea life

This 6-pack ring is edible! Talk about animal and eco-friendly.

Posted by State of the Carte on Monday, 9 April 2018

r/Damnthatsinteresting – Honestly one of the best ideas

The second, the result of a lab experiment gone wrong, pioneers an enzyme which consumes plastic on a molecular level. ‘It all began when researchers took a closer look at the crystal structure of a recently discovered enzyme called PETase, which evolved naturally and was already known to break down and digest plastic … But their investigation had an unlikely result — they introduced a mutation to PETase. The result was a new type of enzyme that digests plastic more efficiently than the original’:

Lab ‘Accident’ Becomes Mutant Enzyme That Devours Plastic

Lab ‘Accident’ Becomes Mutant Enzyme That Devours Plastic

A new enzyme unintentionally produced by researchers has a voracious appetite for plastic.

Source: www.livescience.com/62328-plastic-eating-enzyme.html

 

Both of these solutions are in their earliest phases, but they promise exciting and real changes. Used in tandem with multiple use refillables and traditional recycling methods, these breakthroughs could offer a long term solution to the planet’s plastic build up.

A Bold Pledge

In the wake of the UK government’s commitment to work towards plastic-free isles in stores, one of Britain’s supermarket chains has gone one better; it has set itself the target of becoming wholly plastic free within five years.

Citing advances in technology, Iceland’s CEO told The Guardian ‘there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment’. The company’s first step was to remove plastic straws from its own brand range of products, and all new food ranges will feature paper-based food trays.

This is a welcome development, especially in the wake of the ‘one million tonnes’ revelation, but it is essential that domestic consumers change their habits too.

In the case of too many products—particularly domestic cleaning agents— single-use plastic containers remain the only purchase option. The onus is then placed on the consumer and the local authority to dispose of these, in a waste paradigm that has led to the current crisis of plastic in our oceans.
To combat this effectively, householders need easy affordable solutions which fit into busy lives.

Vesta Smart Packaging represents a paradigm shift. Using the Internet of Things, Vesta imbeds refillable solutions into homes, offering an integrated delivery system and environmentally sound alternative to one-use plastics.
Vesta knows when cleaning products are running low, and delivers to refillable containers, combining peace of mind, affordability and environmentally sustainability.

 

Iceland supermarket vows to eliminate plastic on all own-branded products

Iceland supermarket vows to eliminate plastic on all own-branded products

Retailer outlines five-year aim to replace all plastic packaging with trays made of paper and pulp

Source: www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products

UK Supermarkets 1 million tons of plastic per year

In a damning expose, The Guardian has revealed that Britain͛s leading supermarkets ͚create more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year͛. And, more worryingly, the paper suggests that the firms go to elaborate lengths to hide

the extent of their plastic footprint. What is clear is that their use of contractual loopholes to obfuscate the scale of plastic use prevents clear calls for change. Supermarkets were the first to be obliged to charge for plastic bags, and supermarket delivery services are often touted as a green option. However, until the products they supply are encased in less single-use plastic, they will continue to act as huge catalysts for pollution.

In the face of this, startups are setting themselves the challenge to combat the plastic epidemic. And it͛s working. A paradigm shift is coming from the world of smart refillables—smart containers can be integrated seamlessly into homes and refilled with the goods we use the most.

For the first time, the Internet of Things allows household goods to order themselves, and to be delivered in a refillable and sustainable way. Of course, Supermarkets could get in on this too, but they first need to face up to the dangers of feeding the nation͛s plastic addiction.

Nearly 1m tonnes every year: supermarkets shamed for plastic packaging

Nearly 1m tonnes every year: supermarkets shamed for plastic packaging

Exclusive: Guardian investigation unwraps truth about supermarket plastics after big brands refuse to divulge packaging secrets

Source: www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/17/nearly-1m-tonnes-every-year-supermarkets-shamed-for-plastic-packaging

 

Bioplastics and Vesta Smart Packaging

At Vesta Smart Packaging, we strive to significantly reduce plastic pollution and, by extension, carbon emissions used in the life cycle of one of our containers, or Vestas. It is also important that our containers be recyclable and preferable that they be made from recycled, recyclable and sustainable materials. However, choosing the materials for our refillable and reusable containers has been a more complex exercise than we had first envisioned. On first glance, bioplastics seemed to be the answers to our problems because it is a plastic derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats, vegetable oils, corn starch, or microbiota (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic).

With a current-life of 2 years, our Vestas already show that we can reduce the number of plastic bottles containers over 2 years per product by at least 23. They can be reused after the 2 year period if the plastic container has not sustained too much damage, as we can simply steam clean them, replace their batteries and re-deploy them. However, not all of them will be re-usable and at some point, all of our Vestas will need to be recycled.

Bearing this in mind, we decided to investigate using bio-plastics as the building material for our product. The main considerations for us when choosing a material were:

  1.  Strength
  2. Recyclability
  3. Bio-degradability
  4. Carbon Footprint

1. Strength

Bioplastics are generally not as strong as regular plastics. Currently, the only known way to increase their strength is to mix them with regular plastics – which we would need as it is intended to be used multiple times over a 2 year period. Though this might be better than pure plastic, it can also reduce the recyclability of the plastic and how bio-degradable it is, whilst increasing the cost. These are also important factors in choosing the correct material for our containers. There is currently research being conducted into including cellulose fibres or particles in bio-plastics to increase its strength, which will be watching closely. (see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bm050897y)

2. Recyclability

Recyclability varies considerably with bioplastics. However, those bioplastics that are recyclable cannot be recycled with regular plastics. They require a new stream of recycling, which most recycling plants do not have. A method would have to be developed to separate bio-plastics from regular plastics to make bioplastic recycling on a large scale viable. There is also some concern that bioplastics would contaminate normal plastic recycling (https://waste-management-world.com/a/napcor-concerned-over-pla-contamination-of-pet-stream), increasing the cost and decreasing the effectiveness of plastics recycling. So in short, while many bioplastics are theoretically recyclable, very few places are equipped to process them.

3. Bio-degradability

If a bottle cannot be recycled, it is important that it is bio-degradable. Being made from bio-plastics does not automatically make a bottle recyclable or biodegradable, it just means that the plastic has come biological sources rather than fossil fuels. For example, CocaCola’s PlantBottle, which is made from bio-plastics cannot be composted and does not bio-degrade because it has the same chemical structure as a plastic made from oil (https://www.alternet.org/story/151543/compostable_or_recyclable_why_bioplastics_are_causing_an_environmental_headache). The more bio-degradable a plastic is, the weaker it tends to be. This means they might be more suited for plastic packaging of items such as fruit, or potato chips and don’t lend themselves to tough, robust packaging like that produced by Vesta Smart Packaging. The bio-degradability of many of these bioplastics is also questionable. Many require special high-temperature composting plants and won’t biodegrade in a domestic compost heap.

4. Carbon Footprint

David Grewell of Iowa State University (http://dgrewell.public.iastate.edu/research/bioplastics/cost_comparison.html) has conducted some research on the life-cycles of bio-plastics and has found that many types of bioplastic have a higher carbon footprint throughout their life than regular plastic bottles. See the video below for a more detailed analysis of this problem

Having considered these factors, we believe that bioplastic technology is not ready to be deployed for Vesta Smart Packaging….YET. However, we believe that as the technology is developed and problems are solved we will be able to move to bioplastics. The technology is constantly being researched and in time we believe that bioplastics will become stronger, more recyclable and more bio-degradable. Bioplastics are the future, but that future is not quite with us.

Useful Sources

Recycling Mystery: Bioplastic

http://www.explainthatstuff.com/bioplastics.html

http://green-plastics.net/posts/74/qaa-starch-plastic-tensile-strength/

https://www.alternet.org/story/151543/compostable_or_recyclable_why_bioplastics_are_causing_an_environmental_headache

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/23/biodegradable-plastic-false-solution-for-ocean-waste-problem

http://dgrewell.public.iastate.edu/research/bioplastics/cost_comparison.html

UK faces build-up of plastic waste

The world’s plastic epidemic is often portrayed as a far-flung problem – one which might cause a bit of unsightly litter on motorway sidings, but not one that could seriously affect our daily lives.

But this could be about to change.

It is a little-known fact that Britain has been selling rubbish to China, paying to pass the buck of our excess garbage, and the proof of our national unsustainability.

According to the BBC, ‘Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped’.

That’s right. With China no longer willing to accept the waste – in a bid to clean up its own outlook – we as a nation will be forced to confront our throw-away, one-use culture, and the staggering quantity of rubbish that this generates.

The solution is for business, homes and manufacturers to be proactive, and to take this opportunity to adopt smart, refillable solutions for the health—not just of the planet—but of the nation.

UK faces build-up of plastic waste

UK faces build-up of plastic waste

UK does not have capacity to deal with extra plastic waste after a Chinese import ban, says industry group.

Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42455378

New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthy World

With Greenpeace reporting that the equivalent of a truck load of plastic is dumped in the sea every minute, things are looking bad for our environment.

But we mustn’t despair.

You don’t have to live in an eco-home or install solar panels to make a difference. There are hundreds of small daily things that everyone can do, which really add up to curb the plastic epidemic. Here are just a few:

  • Take your own bags to the shops, and don’t buy food which comes in multiple layers of packaging. Resist the urge to put individual fruits and vegetables in their own bags. Better still, write to the supermarkets and urge them to use less.
  • Try out a grocery delivery service. No longer the preserve of the middle-classes, these services are competitive, nationwide, and hugely sustainable. The deliveries are fixed (great for the environment), the boxes are recycled, and the produce is seasonal and organic. What could be better?
  • Stop buying bottled water. Just stop. Get a flask. Reuse an old bottle. Fill it up from the tap. If everyone did this, the world would be an instantly less plastic-filled place.
  • Reject the offer of a straw. On a night out, at the cinema, wherever. Straws are the ultimate one-use item, and even more pernicious because no one thinks about them. G&T tastes better straight from the glass anyway. 
  • Adopt the re-usable coffee cup. The cups aren’t great for the environment, but the plastic lids are a disaster. Many companies now offer reusable coffee cups – even the high street coffee shops themselves – and many offer a discount on your coffee if you have one. Winner!

2018 has the potential to be a fantastic year, one in which we move towards sustainability and the elimination of single-use plastics.

Happy New Year from Vesta!