Category Archives: General

Ethical and sustainable sourcing of raw materials

knife_fork_spoon-webWe specialise in environmentally friendly catering supplies and food packaging products. Since the increased interest in environmental impact of disposable products we’ve been championing our ever increasing range of eco-friendly alternative products.

The goal has always been to offer an environmentally alternative to every range we supply; this gives customer a choice between using a regular disposable item or a biodegradable product where this is desired or required.

With any shift in buying patterns and product demand it’s important to look at any other secondary environmental factors which might also be relevant. With biodegradable products for example, it’s common for plastic (polyethylene) coatings to be replaced with natural PLA (cornstarch) layers. The secondary impact here could be the knock-on effect with crops grown for food production with focus shifting to supply market demand for PLA. We go through a detailed certification procedure with any supplier or manufacturer of these materials to ensure that the raw materials are sourced in a sustainable fashion. The manufacturer needs to have a infrastructure in place for obtaining their raw materials that doesn’t impact local food production or the local environment.

Another example might be the increased use of wood / paper based products over plastics. We’ve seen plastic straws partially replaced with paper straws for example, and a huge increase in the sale of wooden cutlery. This all increases demand for paperboard and birch wood respectively in these examples. Again we always seek certification from the raw material sources to ensure that any forestry is conducted in a sustainable fashion (https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/what-is-sustainable-forestry), new forests should be planted as trees are harvested; normally with specific types of quick growing birch.

Our new range of bamboo products are another excellent example of a focus on sustainability. Bamboo is an extremely fast growing plant, anything harvested for pump can be replaced extremely quickly minimising any environmental impact.

Please get in touch with our team with any requirements you may have for environmentally friendly biodegradable catering supplies, we’re always on hand to offer advise where required.

Guide to plastic types

recyclebinWe’ve put together a brief overview of the types of plastic you’ll encounter when buying disposable or reusable catering supplies from our store. There a several different types each with their own properties and characteristics.

Knowing the type of plastic used can make a difference to your choice of glasses for an event or the supplies you use in a pub, bar or club.

A summary of the various plastic types is included below, along with the relevant plastic recycling code. If you’re running an event and need to put procedures in place to recycle the materials used, you can check the facilities at processing plants / collections available in your area for this code.

#7 PLA PP (Polylactic Acid)

This cornstarch based product has gained huge popularity since 2018 as a replacement for traditional plastics, both in linings used on paper products and for disposable glasses themselves. We offer a range of paper cups that use PLA as a lining, this allows them to be full biodegradable as PLA breaks down naturally. The PLA plastic glasses offer a similar feel and appearance to the glossy PET glasses; however they are recognisable by a slightly yellow tint.

 #1 PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

This is a glossy and completely clear form of plastic, commonly used for smoothie cups and other colourful drinks where appearance is especially important. They have a level of flexibility between polypropylene and crystal polystyrene, not easily broken at all. Even if the items are intentionally cracked they tend to stay in a since piece and do not shatter. This makes them easily usable at festivals and outdoor events.

 #7 Polycarbonate (PC)

You’d encounter polycarbonate when looking at our extensive range of reusable plastic glasses. This is a rigid and extremely strong form of plastic, so strong in fact that it’s what police riot shields are made from. For all intents and purposes this material is near indestructible in use; it can be dropped, stepped on, crushed etc. Polycarbonate is more expensive so these glasses tend to cost more, you’ll find this used in plastic glasses designed to replace traditional glassware.

 #5 PP (Polypropylene)

This is a very commonly encountered plastic, used for a huge variety of different glasses. It is recognisable by its slightly opaque appearance. The material has a high degree of natural flexibility which makes it very resistant to cracking or other similar damage. Thinner polypropylene glasses can be squashed flat when collected after a festival for example, this leaves no small shards of plastic. Thicker polypropylene glasses such as our Katerglass range have huge natural strength due to the thicker sidewalls while still maintaining a level of flexibility.

 #6 PS (Crystal Polystyrene)

A very rigid and completely clear form of plastic, traditionally used for stemmed glasses but can also be found in other disposable tumblers where the glass cannot have a clouded appearance. Crystal polystyrene will maintain its shape and has a small degree of flexibility; it’s great in terms of appearance and can be made to look almost like glassware to the untrained eye. The only downside is that if the item is damaged it can shatter into smaller pieces, it’s also more fragile than other forms of plastic on this list. A lot of formal glasses are made from crystal polystyrene, champagne flutes and wineglasses for example.

Single use plastics at event sites

champ 2017We’ve seen a couple of customers recently have trouble dealing with organisers at event sites when it comes to the types of catering disposables they’re using. There seems to be a lot of miscommunication with regards to environmental policy and what is / isn’t acceptable in terms of materials.

A recent example saw new rules issued to one of our customers the day before their event, within 24 hours they had new compliance mandates to which they had to conform. This mainly concerned the type of plastic used; certification was required for the purity of the plastic and suitability for any recycling as well as a plan for collection.

In this instance it was our popular disposable plastic champagne flutes. These are made from pure 100% virgin grade crystal polystyrene, a material that is very easily recycled at any processing facility in the UK. They’re a highly economical and eco-friendly (as long as they’re recycled!) solution to serving prosecco or champagne at event sites.

The customer solved the issue with the organisers after forwarding on our certification documents and putting in place a plan for collection, namely a deposit per glass which was refunded when the item was returned for recycling. This was very effective and meant basically zero additional clean-up was required.

We’re always keen to work together with customers to meet the requirements of event sites and council owned venues – there’s nearly always a simple solution that enables disposable catering supplies to be used effectively. Please feel free to get in touch if you come across issues of this nature, we’re happy to offer advice.

Plastics and Outdoor Events / Festivals

Econ Pint RangeThe use of plastics at event sites has come under scrutiny in the past couple of years due to the increased focus on sustainability and other environmental concerns.

Traditionally any outdoor event of reasonable size / volume would use low cost disposable plastic glasses. These are great for single use due to their thin plastic and low cost per unit, however some event sites or councils have sought to discourage the use of these glasses. There are various mandates in place, although this depends on the specific area.

The most basic requirement is that there must be a system in place to effectively collect the waste and process the plastics used for recycling. This makes absolute sense and really should be done regardless. The most commonly use vacuum formed polypropylene glasses are very easily recycled by any plastic processing facility, this just need the correct sortation and collection.

2 Pint Katerglass2Another restriction we’ve come across is a stipulation that all disposables used must be biodegradable. This makes the choice of plastics slightly more difficult as the usual polypropylene glasses are not biodegradable. Instead we offer biodegradable plastic glasses made from cPLA / cornstarch which will degrade naturally. Another alternative is to use biodegradable paper products where appropriate. The obvious downside of this stipulation is that the unit costs are noticeably higher than regular single-use disposables, a cost that may well end up being felt by the event attendees.

The most severe restriction is when an event site has a blanket ban on any disposable items, this means even biodegradable products cannot be used and the organisers will need to be more inventive in order to offer drinks to customers. We’ve got a wide range of reusable plastic glasses which are ideal for this purpose; these come in all shapes and sizes. The cost per unit is much higher on these items so it will be necessary to ensure the glasses are returned for reuse, normally through a deposit system that ensures customers can’t walk away with the glass without a surcharge. It’s also possible to use this as an opportunity to add value to your product, perhaps using branded glasses or a more attractive vessel than the usual tumbler style.

If you encounter any of these restrictions our experienced team can help you find a solution that works, simply get in touch.

Coffee market growth despite increased focus on sustainability

mixed groupAny industry that uses or depends on disposables will have experienced a turbulent couple of years, mainly following the huge global focus on sustainability and single use plastics / disposables etc.  A lot of media attention has centered around franchised coffee chains as they’re a very visible user of disposable products, namely disposable paper coffee cups.

Various coffee chains, such as Boston Tea Party for example, have sought to ban single use paper cups from their business entirely. Others have vouched to replace traditional plastic lined paper cups with biodegradable or compostable options in order to tick that all-important environmentally aware box. We’ve also seen the rise of schemes designed to recycle the plastic lined paper cups using a specific process to separate the plastic content first.

Initially there was a lot of skepticism of such schemes, especially in relation to how they’d affect the core business, and in turn, profitability. In reality however the takeaway coffee industry has continued to flourish and indeed grow. The UK market has doubled in size (£bn) between 2010 and 2018 and is forcasted to grow at an average of 6.8% per annum for next 6 years.

Some industry leaders have actually commented on how aligning themselves with current environmental concerns and trends has actually been instrumental to their growth. Quite the opposite of what analysts originally predicted. Commercial valuations specialists Christie & Co recently published an interesting roundup of opinions of their blog at: https://www.christie.com/news-resources/blogs/june-2019/propel-coffee-conference-2019-highlights-innovatio/?viewmode=0

UK consumers drink 3.3kg of coffee per head / per year (2015), however this is still behind USA and developed European competitors (4.5 – 6.5kg). Market trends and buying patterns suggest that the coffee to go market will continue to grow, and that it will simply learn to adapt in terms of reliance on disposables. This will be either through new compostable coatings or better collection, sortation and recycling facilities.

 

What size paper cups do I need?

This is a very common question from private customers, but often from coffee shop / cart owners on occasions too. We stock a huge range of different paper cup types, these then come in a wide range of sizes. We realise this can be a somewhat bewildering range for the casual customer so we’ve put together a bit of a guide to help you make your choice.

The most common sizes are 8oz and 12oz, most customers will end up purchasing one of these sizes as they represent a small or regular serving of coffee. We have other more specialised sizes too though which might also be suitable.

4oz paper cups: these are sometimes mistaken for “the smallest size takeaway coffee cup”, purchased in error when an 8oz cup was actually required. A 4oz cup is an espresso shot only; you’d never serve a tea or regular coffee in this size. It’s also extremely popular with companies serving samples of their products.

6oz paper cups: generally these are purchased for serving the increasingly popular “flat white”. Some more specialised artisan coffee houses have also taken to using this size in place of the 8oz cup too.

8oz paper cups: the go-to size for a lot of customers, it’s generally classed as either a “small” or a “regular” in the coffee to go world.

10oz paper cups: designed specifically to fit under the nozzle of automatic coffee machines, these hold 10oz comfortably with the max capacity being a shade under 12oz. This is a common size of a medium / regular takeaway coffee.

12oz paper cups: normally considered a medium size and traditionally the most popular. It’s a versatile size that can be used for lots of different beverages, to reduce the number of cup sizes stocked some coffee chains will serve small / regular and medium servings in this size of cup.

16oz paper cups: the largest mainstream cup size you’ll encounter, it has the same diameter as a 12oz cup, it’s just quite a bit taller. Generally a coffee chain will use fewer of these than the more common 8 or 12oz sizes.

You can see our full range of cups on the paper coffee cups page: https://innsupplies.com/disposable/paper-cups

Dimensions and sizes

4oz paper cups

6oz paper cups

8oz paper cups

10oz paper cups

12oz paper cups

16oz paper cups

4oz

62mm rim
60mm tall

6oz

70mm rim
75mm tall

8oz

80mm rim
90mm tall

10oz

90mm rim
94mm tall

12oz

90mm rim
110mm tall

16oz

90mm rim
137mm tall

 

 

Can I recycle paper cups?

crushed-cupsThis has been a popular question as of late, with a hugely increased focus on environmental responsibility companies and private individuals using disposables now looking at their usage with sustainability in mind.

Before tackling the topic of recycling it’s important to note the different types of paper cups commonly in circulation:

  • Paper cups with PE (polyethylene) lining
  • Paper cups with PLA (cornstarch) lining
  • Bamboo cups with PLA (cornstarch) lining

It’s a common misconception that paper cups with a lining cannot be recycled; in fact this is completely untrue. Paper cups cannot simply be put in your regular household paper recycling stream as the lining is classed as a contaminant; however there are other ways of recycling the paperboard used in these cups.

All cups need some sort of lining, without this they will leak. We’re often asked why cup manufacturers don’t just remove the plastic lining. It’s there for a reason; it keeps your coffee in your cup!

To be recycled correctly paper cups either need to be “cut” or mixed with a pure source of paper recycling (newspaper for example) or sent to a specialised facility that has a process to separate the lining from the cup before recycling the paper part. Both of these methods are good alternatives to the recycling issue. When mixing the paper cup waste with a pure form of paper recycling, the plant is simply managing the contamination level to keep it within tolerance. A certain percentage of contamination is acceptable and still results in usable paper pulp. Separating the lining from the cup is the other option, if there’s a facility for this method available in your area then this will enable cups to be directly recycled – however this is very area dependent.

Looking to have your cups recycled? There are various schemes that we support which can assist with this, for example:

  • Save a cup can arrange collections of your cups if the volume of use is sufficient, they will then process the waste using a suitable facility: http://www.save-a-cup.co.uk/.
  • Simply cups offer a wealth of advice on cup recycling and also offer a “post back” service when you can send your cups for recycling: https://simplycups.co.uk/

Bamboo cups are a newer type of cup that doesn’t rely on traditional paperboard, as the name suggests they’re made from fast growing sustainable Bamboo grass. This is not suitable for recycling at present, but these cups are designed to be sent to commercial composting facilities where they’re processed and completely break down to mulch.

We recommend checking with your local council and asking what recycling and processing facilities are available in your area. Some councils have processing facilities dedicated to paper cups and are able to recycle or process them directly. As this is done on a per-council basis customers need to check what facilities are available in their area – it may well be that your local council has a regular collection that’s compatible with paper cups, or a collection centre.

You can find our full range of paper cups at: https://innsupplies.com/disposable/paper-cups

Disposable Paper Straws

black-paper-straws-webBy popular demand we’ve introduced a new line of paper straws to supplement our existing range of disposable plastic straws. Due to ever shifting consumer requirements, paper straws have seen a huge surge in popularity through 2018; with many pubs, bars and clubs replacing their usual plastic straws.

Our disposable paper straws are 100% biodegradable, there’s no plastic coating either which means they can be easily recycled with your usual paper waste.

Initially we’re offering the plain black paper straws, although a range of colours and other designs will follow.

Our paper straws have a thick premium feel with a semi matt finish – great for use at bars that prefer not to use disposable plastics.

Samples of these are available on request. You can find these paper straws on our website at: https://innsupplies.com/black-paper-straws-biodegradable-compostable.html

World Oceans Day

world oceans day 2world oceans day 1As part of World Oceans Day, numerous companies and organisations have used their media influence to raise awareness about the damage we’re doing to our ecosystem and oceans.

The display in these images (spotted locally) was organised by Corona, it is a visual depiction of the average quantity of waste found over a 2 mile stretch of beach in the UK. As you can see, much of this waste is plastic based which can be hugely harmful to wildlife.

As an ethical supplier of catering disposables, much of which is plastic based, we’re always very keen to promote the sustainable usage and correct disposal of our products. We supply large quantities of plastic glasses for events all over the UK; the vast majority of our items are either recyclable or biodegradable.  Any large consumers of disposable items should always have a plan in mind to manage their waste; normally this would involve collecting the used glasses and sorting for recycling. There’s no need for items of this nature to be disposed of with regular waste and sent to landfill. We certainly don’t want to see products dumped into the oceans where they take hundreds of years to break down.

Whether you’re catering a small private party, or a large festival for hundreds of thousands of guests – we’re always happy to advise on the most ethical ways to dispose and manage any waste created. The most effective way to do your part for the oceans is to ensure your waste doesn’t end up there in the future.

World Oceans Day: http://www.worldoceansday.org/