THE LANGUAGE OF PLASTIC

Plastic. A simple word that should be simple to explain. But it isn’t. We need to cut through this LINGUISTIC CONFUSION with STRAIGHT-TALK.
There are many kinds of plastic and they are all surrounded by a huge amount of misinformation, greenwashing and nuance. We want to increase the use of materials that Nature can handle and eliminate the use of those Nature can’t. We need to cut through this linguistic confusion with straight-talk. So we are going to use the following words to describe the different kinds of plastic and non-plastic materials
Conventional Plastic
Conventional plastic is what we see everywhere - PET, PS, PVC, PP, PE etc. The vast majority is derived from unsustainable fossil fuel sources, although conventional plastic can now also be manufactured from plants to produce a product with the same chemical structure, and critically, the same indestructible qualities. Plant-derived conventional plastic is sometimes called “bio-plastic” or “drop in bio-plastic” - a perfect example of the confusing language used to describe plastic. Similarly ‘oxo-biodegradable’ plastics may sounds good but are now known to simply degrade down to tiny plastic fragments. For absolute clarity, we call all three of these kind of plastics Conventional Plastic as they all take hundreds of years to break down into micro-plastics and nano-plastics that are damaging our marine life and polluting our planet at an unprecedented rate.
So-called ‘drop-in’
bio plastic
Chemically the same as the equivalent conventional fossil fuel plastic; how it’s used, how (if it isn’t managed) it degrades down to micro-plastics; damaging to environment, lasts forever. The only difference is that this type of Bio-Plastic is derived from plants like sugar cane so it is sustainable. They are called ‘drop in’ because they so easily replace fossil fuel plastic. We need to be careful not to be misled here. These sustainable plastics are made from ethanol that is identical in all other ways to fossil fuel plastic. Until 100% of these Bio-Plastics are recycled in a closed loop – which is so far in our possible future – we do not support their use for food and drink packaging.


APP call all the materials in the following two groups
PLASTIC FREE™.
Bio materials
Bio-materials are the future. Exciting new and old materials include wood pulp, plant cellulose, food waste, grass, algae, and mushrooms. These materials can be made into trays, punnets and clear, flexible films that look and behave like conventional plastic, but with two key differences: At the start of their lives, these materials can be sustainably sourced ideally in full or in part. At the end of their lives, they can be composted into bio-mass to regenerate depleted farming soils. We support all compostables that comply with the necessary compliance ie EN 13432 or OK Home Compostable.
Other Materials
Metal, paper, carton board and glass are also plastic free. Aluminium, tin and glass can be recycled in an infinite loop. Paper, sustainably sourced through FSC™ or PEFC™ certification, can also be recycled and is one of the most all around versatile packaging materials. Steel and tin plate cans are of course free of plastic, but often have plastic linings. Similarly work is still needed to remove hidden plastic in products like Tetrapak.
Is BIODEGRADABLE the same as COMPOSTABLE?
Biodegradable
APP avoids using the word biodegradable because everything eventually biodegrades, but not necessarily into harmless matter and very often over very long time periods. Plastic is a good example. It biodegrades in our oceans into tiny, microscopic pieces creating a toxic plastic soup and a plastic bottle takes hundreds of years to break down. Biodegradable sounds misleadingly positive - APP would prefer to talk about compostable.
Compostable
Imagine packaging that is fully compostable at the end of its life, so it gives something useful back to Nature rather than something harmful. The skin around an orange protects the fruit until we eat it, and then fully composts. This should be our goal – wrap perishable food in perishable packaging. The opposite of plastic. We need to start a serious conversation about our waste management systems including industrial composting as obviously composting vast quantities of packaging at home is not practical.

The Plastic-Free-Pedia

We need to start using materials that NATURE CAN HANDLE. Here is a list of materials we can use instead of plastic.
APP recognizes the astounding properties of plastic. But wrapping, microwaving and boiling our food in plastic must stop. We need to start using materials that Nature can handle. Here is a list of materials we can use instead – now and in the near future. For more detail on the materials, manufacturers, industrial composting and FAQs, go to our ever-evolving Resource Library.
DO YOU WANT TO GO TO OUR EVER-EVOLVING RESOURCE LIBRARY
CLICK HERE
Materials nature can handle…
A. Aluminum
By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust. It is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon.

Aluminum cans deliver 100% protection against oxygen, light, moisture and other contaminants. Aluminium does not rust and has one of the longest shelf lives of any type of packaging.
  • The most sustainable and recycled beverage container - over 90% of aluminium cans are recycled, over and over again in a true ‘closed loop.’
  • Lightweight - easy to ship with lower CO2 emissions.
BUT
  • Interior lacquer - the inside of cans are currently lacquered with a lining containing a tiny percentage of styrene and formaldehyde. We are working with manufacturers to explore alternatives, as on balance, aluminium cans are an excellent alternative to PET plastic.
Click here for our aluminium PDF
B. Bio materials
Bio materials is an umbrella term covering all plant-based materials. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on the planet, providing strength to the structural cell walls of green plants and some forms of algae. The cellulose content of wood is 40-50%, dried hemp 57% and cotton fibre 90%. It can be used to form biofilms, paper and card packaging.

TREES
Ethically sourced paper and all its wood-derived variants, is highly sustainable and versatile. Some new materials that look and feel like conventional plastic, are now made of wood pulp. There is a huge level of innovation around wood based packaging especially in paper folded cartons, moulded pulp, fibre and nets using beech wood.
  • Renewable
  • Versatile
  • Moldable
  • Low cost
  • Highly recycled
  • Easily compostable when in film form
BUT
  • Tree-based pulp packaging needs industrial composting when it is produced at scale.
Click here for our Trees PDF

PLANTS
There is a wonderful simplicity about wrapping our food with food. Definitely something nature can handle when we are finished with it.

Using bamboo, sugar cane and cornstarch to make food trays and punnets is commonplace, but there are many other innovative uses of plants and food waste now, that can even heat-seal to give us wholly compostable trays with film tops.

A perfect example of ‘food to package food’ are tomato punnets, using the dried leaves and stalks of the tomato plant with recycled cardboard pulp.

GRASS PAPER
Sun-dried grass is extremely environmental, dramatically reducing the demands on water and energy
  • Renewable
  • Highly versatile
  • Composts down to generate biomass (soil)
BUT
  • Current lack of industrial composting infrastructure.
Click here for our Grass Paper PDF
G. Glass
Made by melting together several minerals, silica in the form of sand, soda ash and limestone, at a temperature of 1700°C.
  • Inert and non-permeable
  • Clarity
  • Highly recycled
BUT
  • Weight - more expensive to ship with CO2 implications
  • Plus plastic – glass containers often use plastic or plastic-lined lids
  • Breakable
Click here for our Glass PDF.
S. Steel / Tin Cans
Tin-plated steel cans are highly recycled and give long shelf life. Good design can transform the humble tin can into iconic packaging – think of sardine tins. However, all modern cans have a plastic lining even though it is only needed for acidic foods. Tomato-based foods do not need this plastic lining. Imagine how much less plastic we would be using if we simply found an alternative – we are working on this with can manufacturers.
  • Widely recycled
  • Long shelf life
BUT
  • The plastic lining contains BPA and other chemicals and needs replacing with a non-toxic alternative.
Click here for our Steel and Tin PDF.
New materials in the works...
ALGAE | LIGNIN | AND MUCH MORE Materials made from algae have the potential to completely replace synthetic plastics over time. Current projects include 3D algae printing for shampoo bottles, tableware and rubbish bins.

Other developments see the creation of biopolymers from organic raw materials such as mycelium, potato starch and cocoa bean shells and the building networks of biopolymer 3D printers - check out the 3D Bakery in Holland.
  • Highly renewable
  • Versatile - easy to mold for different pack shapes
  • Hold liquids - the Holy Grail of plastic-free alternatives
  • CO2 sink - algae, for example, absorbs carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.
BUT
  • Still in R+D but highly promising – watch this space.