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Eco-friendly Materials Explained

Here at Party Plastics, all our products are made from renewable sources that can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There are five main product materials we currently use for our catering goods.

Bio Plastics

Plastics made from plants. The starch within the plant is used to make a polymer, which behaves in a very similar way to conventional oil based plastics. The most common plants used to make bio plastics are potatoes and corn, both renewable resources as they can be re-grown each year.

Bio plastics have a much lower carbon footprint than conventional plastics. Less energy is required in manufacturing, and a high percentage of renewable energy is used. As bio plastics are made from plants, any carbon emitted has a neutral effect, as it has already been removed, or will be removed via the next crop used to make the bio plastics, through the plants photosynthesis. Also, PLA bio plastics emit 77% less carbon dioxide, at just 0.74kilos per kilo of resin used, compared to PET plastics at a much higher 3.4kilos per kilo used of resin.

Bio plastics can be disposed of in a number of ways:

  • Composting breaks the product down to small pieces within 90days with no toxic residue in industrial composting conditions.
  • They can be recycled mechanically and chemically by breaking down the polymer and reforming the bio plastics. Trials have also shown that they can be separated in standard recycling facilities. However, as bio plastics still only account for a small percentage of all plastics, it is not a priority for waste management, and will need future investment.
  • Bio plastics can be disposed of in landfill sites, as long as they are biologically active landfills. A certain amount and distribution of moisture is needed in order for a landfill to become biologically active. Without the moisture, bio plastics would not degrade in the manner intended, and could even contribute to methane production.
  • If incinerated, bio plastics burn more clearly than conventional oil based plastics. It results in Carbon Dioxide, Water, Carbon and a small amount of ash. Any carbon emitted is renewable, as it is reabsorbed by the crops used to create the bio plastics.

Plant Starch

Plant starch material (PSM – PLAstarch material) is a flexible packaging material, which has not yet been refined into a bio plastic. It is usually made from potatoes or corn, which are both renewable crops. It has a low carbon footprint, and is fully compostable within industrial composting facilities. PSM is heat resistant, making it suitable for hot food applications, and ideal for cutlery.

Sugar Bagasse

Sugar bagasse is made from the waste material produced once sugar cane has been harvested for its syrup. It is a renewable resource, as the crops are replanted each year. Currently, there is not a lot of information on its associated carbon emissions, but as it is technically a waste product, it can be considered to be saving carbon, as anything it emits will be reabsorbed by next years crops. It is also naturally compostable, and can be disposed of in your domestic compost heap.

Sugar bagasse is turned into products from its raw form using a process of heating, pulping and pressurised moulding. The final product is heat and grease resistant, and microwave safe, making them ideal as hot food containers and for serving, i.e. plates and bowls.

Recycled Plastics

Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) is the most common plastic that is being recycled back into primary applications. This means that bottles are being recycled back into bottles, rather than being 'down-cycled' into lesser products. Recycled plastics reduce the amount of fossil fuel resources used, and have a lower carbon footprint than virgin plastics. They divert material from landfill as they can be recycled again and again. PET is the virgin plastic of this product. Although it isn't made from recycled plastics, it is just as recyclable, and then turned into RPET to be used again and again.

Paper

Recycled paper products contribute to the diversion of material from landfill, and results in less land being given over to commercial forestry, which can have a negative impact on biodiversity. Sustainable forest paper ensures that the forest from which the paper comes is managed, so as not to destroy the forest. It also helps to promote biodiversity, and protects any indigenous people, plants and animals.

Both types of paper are renewable resources, and are compostable unless lined with an oil based plastic.

Non-biodegradable Materials

Some products are yet to be made from entirely biodegradable materials, notably our ripple cups and window bags, which have an oil based plastic lining.

PE (Polyethylene)

Polyethylene is a widley used plastic, primarily within packaging, e.g. plastic carrier bags. It has several different variations depending on the density of the plastic. The most common used of it are HDPE (High Density), used for products such as detergent bottles, and VLDPE (Very Low Density), used commonly for food packaging (ice and sandwich bags). PE is not biodegradable. While it is recyclable, most of it ends up in landfills, where it can take centuries to degrade. There is however research being done into biopolyethylene, produced from bioethenol made from sugar cane, and a bacteria that aids the degredation of the plastic.

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