Composting coffee cups - new waste service composts Bristol’s plastic-free takeaway packaging

Bristol food businesses can now Close the Loop with a new composting collection launched by Vegware, the leading manufacturer of compostable catering disposables. Vegware’s Close the Loop service collects clients’ used takeaway packaging to turn into rich compost for Gloucestershire fields. A new bring-back scheme, the Composting Collective, unites cafés to capture used takeaway Vegware that might otherwise have been lost to the black bin.

Bristol is leading a huge move away from single-use plastic, yet foodservice businesses still rely on disposable containers to avoid reducing sales by up to a quarter. Conventional disposables are notoriously challenging to recycle, due to the mix of plastic, card and food residues. Vegware’s plant-based packaging is designed for industrial composting. Their plastic-free catering packaging is made from renewable, lower carbon or recycled materials.

The University of the West of England has already signed up for Vegware’s new composting collections, in response to concerns from their 33,000 student and staff voice. Used compostable coffee cups, cutlery and containers from OneZone, the main student restaurant at UWE’s Frenchay campus, are turned into compost for Gloucestershire farmers. UWE’s Sustainable Projects Officer Eddy Piper says, “We are pleased to have found a way to reduce the impact of our single-use packaging”.

Already popular in Scotland, Close the Loop is now rolling out in Bristol, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Food waste and used Vegware is collected from cafes, offices, schools, health facilities and universities, and taken to Gloucestershire’s Rose Hill composting facility. Vegware’s Bristol-based Recycling Advisor Georgia Budden elaborates:

“Bristol people are so engaged in sustainability. We have seen huge demand for Close the Loop, and are already collecting from a dozen sites, from independent cafes to offices and universities. We make bin signage and posters to make sure it is simple to choose the right bin. The local response has been amazing.”

Takeaway is an integral part of consumers’ lifestyles, yet on-the-go recycling is notoriously challenging. Vegware’s new bring-back scheme, the Composting Collective, captures used Vegware for composting. The scheme also aims to encourage people to visit independent cafés over high-street chains.

Café Matariki at Pacific Yoga, which overlooks the waterfront by Bristol Bridge, is the first member the Composting Collective. The Composting Collective unites local cafes, creating a network of bring-back points for consumers to access composting, even if it was bought elsewhere. Members, like the Epiphany Café at the Royal West of England Academy, showcase their participation with window stickers and in-café posters.

UK soils are suffering a fertility crisis, and Michael Gove has warned that British farms are 30 to 40 years away from, “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility”. Compost returns nutrients to the soil, and has the added benefit of improving soil structure, reducing the risk of floods.