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Compostable vs recyclable: How packaging policies can help

Compostable vs recyclable: How packaging policies can help

Compostable vs recyclable: How packaging policies can help

It’s easy to become accustomed to daily routines, to doing things the way they’ve always been done. When we first started out, the bags that our jerseys shipped in were plastic. This is hardly something worthy of note, as most items are shipped in plastic bags or boxes; after all, it’s a versatile material, and since we package our jerseys individually to make distributing them amongst a team easy, a protective, lightweight material was the perfect choice. But stacking up all the packages that went into a single team’s jersey order, knowing that each was destined for the landfill, was sobering. What was the alternative?

Weigh your options

Packaging is used to safely ship goods from producer to consumer. The types of packaging vary widely depending on the product and the protective materials needed to ensure a safe arrival. Eggs require different packaging from Ultimate jerseys, for obvious reasons. In terms of sustainability, a piece of packaging can fall into one of three categories: recyclable, compostable, and non-biodegradable. Packaging that is non-biodegradable can sometimes be recycled, so for our purposes we’ll call those recyclable.

Seven of the top ten most frequently removed pieces of trash from the ocean are plastic based. Together we can begin to shift this trend by choosing our packaging carefully. But which packaging type is better? If we want to select from biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable materials, which should we choose, and why? What’s the difference between them?

Recyclable vs biodegradable?

Materials that can be broken down and reused are considered recyclable. Materials that will decompose without causing harm to the environment are considered biodegradable. Materials that will break down into a nutrient-rich soil are considered compostable. Everything that is compostable is biodegradable, but not vice versa. Be sure to check with your city’s policies regarding compostable packaging, although not every region has the infrastructure in place to correctly dispose of compostable bags.

In the past, compostable boxes and bags were seen as a less structurally sound, more expensive option, but for the most part, this is no longer true. The packages serve their purpose as well as any oil-based material would. This means that compostable packaging is the best option, as it will degrade until it becomes soil that can be used to grow new, healthy plants.

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Biodegradable packaging does not harm the environment, and provides a way to get goods from place to place with neutral environmental effects. Biodegradable materials are a huge improvement from regular plastics that can’t break down, and sourcing them is easier than ever. However, while some biodegradable materials are perfectly fine for the environment, the process used to create them or the conditions necessary for them to break down can involve chemicals that may harm the environment.

The timeframe for biodegradable material breakdown compared to that of compostable material tends to be significantly longer. However, the biodegradable packaging sector has been pushing the boundaries, allowing companies to test and try new techniques that can be beneficial to both themselves and the environment. While compostable materials are better in the long run, biodegradable packaging has allowed eco-friendly options to enter the mainstream.

Finally, we reach recyclable packaging, which can be broken down and remanufactured. Obviously this is still a better option than throwing packages in the garbage, but it also depends upon your city having proper recycling facilities, as well as everyone recycling their products responsibly.

It takes energy to not only create the initial product, but break it down and craft it into something new. That being said, the recycling sector has come a long way in recent years through innovation and proper funding. Where once a material would lose its integrity after being recycled, now items can be recycled over and over again. This prevents further extraction of resources, and most regions have the infrastructure to recycle goods.

Recycling does not have the same long-term positive effects that compostable packaging does, but it is widely available and keeps trash out of the world’s oceans.

Read the labels!

Next time you are shopping online or in person, take a look at the vendor’s packaging policies. Not every industry has the ability to use compostable packages, and not every company that has the ability does so. A future in which the seas are clogged with plastic bags is grim, but together we can begin to prevent that future from occurring.

It was difficult for us at BE Ultimate to understand the impact we were having until we viewed our policies from an outside perspective. Switching to compostable packaging came with its share of difficulties, as any logistical switch does, but this decision has been met with overwhelming positivity. We’ve found the new packages to be even easier to pack tightly, meaning more jerseys can fit in a box with less waste, and the bags themselves are now contributing to the betterment of the world’s soil.

Not every industry is as fortunate as us, but we are in a position to try to improve the world around us, and we hope to continue doing so. Currently we’ve managed to convert 95% of our primary packaging to compostable materials, with the intention of being 100% by 2022. It’s a small step, in the grand scheme of things, and will not be the last one for us at BE Ultimate.

Packaging was one of the focal points for us becoming climate neutral. We’re also in the process of becoming B-Corp certified, which means we get audited for sustainability to ensure our business is doing everything we can to help the planet. You can view our action plan here. If you have any questions for us or want to make suggestions we are always available, don’t hesitate to reach out.


Climate Neutral Certified

We are committed to BE Sustainable, and we hope you will join us in this endeavour.