At Comins we are always looking for ways to minimise our environmental impact. We are currently in the process of moving all of our packaging across to compostable packaging so you will see this change happening on our shelves and in the parcels you receive through the post.
You may be on this page because you are curious or you may have seen the stamp below on the back of our new packaging and you are coming here to find out how to re-fill it or dispose of it. Below you will find :
1. Guidance on how to re-fill and dispose of our packaging
2. Background on our decision to change packaging, the composition of our
packaging, more information on what 'compostable means' and details of how
we working with a local green waste recycling unit to close the loop on the
compostable packaging cycle.
In short the guidance for our packaging now is :-
1. REFILL AND REUSE WHEN YOU CAN Either
bring your packet back to the shop to refill, or if
you are an online customer, use the envelope
provided to return your packet to be refilled.
Simply place a note in your order online we will
wait for your packaging to return. We will refund
your postage [second class].
2. INDUSTRIAL COMPOST For reasons
detailed below until our trial is complete please
either return your bags to the collection site in the
Tea House OR place them in your general waste
This guidance will be updated when we have an outcome with the trial below.
ALL ABOUT COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING AND THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH A CLOSED LOOP INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTABLE CYCLE
WHAT DOES 'COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING' MEAN? : Compostability describes material which biodegrades within a time frame of 180 days under composting conditions — high humidity, high temperature and the presence of microorganisms and bacteria. The specific conditions under which a material 'composts' are described as ‘standards,’ such as the European standard for industrial composting EN 13432 (which applies to our chosen packaging) Materials and products complying with these standards can be certified and labelled accordingly.
WHY ARE WE CHANGING : Compostable packaging has many benefits, including the fact that [once a closed loop composting system is set up] it can be treated like organic waste, and therefore, decompose naturally just like organic matter. When compostable packaging is discarded into an appropriate organic waste stream [see below] it will fully decompose within 6 months into a natural fertilizer for soil and plants.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MATERIAL TO PACK OUR TEA : Storing tea is really quite simple. There needs to be an airtight seal in conditions away from light and moisture. These conditions prevent deterioration of the leaf - something that is especially important with tea that have been prevented from fully oxidising during their production [green, white for example]. That is because even when processed teas will continue to oxidise - something that will affect their profile.
As a company we need to balance the storage of our teas with the impact of our packaging on the planet. The illustrations below will be stamped on our new compostable packaging and we will identify individual teas using compostable labels - the composition of the packets and the labels are as below.
These constituents allow these packets to be classified as Industrial Compostable. But what does this mean in real life - for you??...we have been on a mission to find out
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED ABOUT DISPOSING OF PACKAGING : At home and in business we generate several different types of waste.
So - we can all see how it would be far better for us to package our products in material that is able to be put in with organic compostable waste rather than be sent to landfill with general waste. Straightforward right? Not so.
INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTABLE : We started to research compostable packaging. I soon discovered that most packaging [in fact all that I found] was classified as 'Industrial Compostable'. This means it has to make its way to option 1 above, be accepted and enter into the processes involved on this site - namely being placed in the huge windrows of compostable waste that generate large amounts of heat and facilitate faster decomposition of organic materials.
As above the packaging we are going to be using are certified compostable with the code EN 134232. As you would expect international standards are applied when testing these materials - including eco-toxicity and heavy metal testing - to assure that all certified compostable materials are nourishing and perfectly safe for the cultivation of soil. The following is taken from the report related to the assignation of EN 134232 “The key requirements are: Quality of the final compost and eco-toxicity… this involves making an examination to see if the germination and biomass production of plants are not adversely affected by the influence of composted packaging.”
THE PROBLEM : The problem is that if an unidentified material is put into organic or green waste bins then it will simply be removed by the processing facility on arrival and sent on to landfill. Materials therefore need to be pre-approved by organic waste recycling units. Until a site has trialed the packaging in the green waste and there is a defined route to the organic waste site the packaging, even though compostable, will have to go into general waste.
WHY CAN'T I JUST USE HOME COMPOST? There is an argument to say that you can : composting under industrial and/or home compost conditions should yield identical results. HOWEVER the conditions in these two environments are very different so the time it will take is highly variable.
WILL THE PACKS START BREAKING DOWN IN MY HOME? The right temperature, humidity and heat will trigger the biodegradation process. The degradation cycle will only begin to take place when the package reaches appropriate composting conditions.
IS COMPOSTABLE STILL BETTER EVEN IN LANDFILL? Our overall aim is for packaging to be RE-FILLED & RE-USED and once it reaches the end of its life for it to be directed to a Industrial compost facility. If our packaging does end up in landfill it should be regarded the same as any organic waste ending up in that environment. The rate at which it will decompose will depend on the surrounding conditions and the presence of oxygen. In an uncontrolled environment such as a landfill, it is difficult to estimate how long it will take but it has a far greater chance of disappearing than the plastic alternatives due to its composition. Hence the reason we have made this change now in parallel to the testing in the green waste.
SO WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THIS : We are lucky to live very close to the This is Eco recycling site - a highly innovative organic waste recycling site currently processing upwards of 250,000 tons a year of organic material over four separate facilities industry. Here Michelle has made contact with Shaun Owen who in turn has now connected with the packaging company to start to scope out a test on the packaging. [This is the approach that is needed in our opinion : packaging producers, green waste processing units, companies using packaging such as ours working together - a similar trial has taken place with Vegware - see attached - and shown the benefit of looking at the real life performance of new type compostable products]
Once this is in place and we get results we can then plan the best way to collect waste and send it to the site. As you can appreciate compostable waste needs to be collected at agreed sites and sent in rather than consumers each individually sending in compostable waste. The trial would be the first step in showing how a closed loop system for this particular type of compostable packaging could work which is very exciting and hopefully explains the guidance that we have issued above.
We are taking one step at a time but we believe we are doing so in an educated and informed way that is hopefully useful to you as consumers and to the industry as a whole. With the planet in mind we believe that packaging should never be a competitive advantage so any work we do will be shared more widely with anyone who is interested.