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Boosting recycling at River Cottage Fair

04th August 2016

River Cottage’s Spring Food Fair achieved 72% recycling by serving all food on compostable packaging. Aiming to beat the UK event average of 15%, River Cottage trialled UK company Vegware’s compostable packaging and recycling support. After the three-day event, 680kg of used takeaway packaging was composted with food and green waste at Viridor’s Heathfield In-Vessel Composting (IVC) facility; in less than 12 weeks this soil conditioner will be available to River Cottage’s gardens and local farmers.

With River Cottage founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, raising the profile of the sector after revealing that only 1 in 400 UK coffee cups gets recycled. Most cups and used takeaway packaging instead is sent to landfill or an energy recovery facility, due to the challenge of recycling plastic-lined card with food contamination. River Cottage’s mission to reduce waste led them to trial Vegware’s compostable packaging and recycling support.

Lucy Lomas, River Cottage Business Director said of the event: “We are absolutely delighted with the recycling results from the Spring Food Fair, 72% far exceeds the UK event average of 15% and is an amazing achievement. The key was getting everyone on board, from food traders at the event to our staff and most importantly our guests. The team onsite helped to ensure the guests put the right thing in the right bin, through clear signage and communicating with customers. We are looking forward to our Festival in September where we hope to do even better!”

Viridor collected and then processed the packaging and food waste at their nearby IVC facility. As well as providing recycling advisors to oversee event recycling, Vegware also helped minimise contamination by creating clear bin signage and informative posters tailored to the event. Children were given Vegware’s Bin Detective stickers for recycling correctly, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall encouraged attendees to recycle in his welcome speech each day.

Richard Griffith, Organics Sales Manager for Viridor said of the project: “Everyday Viridor transforms organic waste into high-quality soil conditioner for use in agriculture. Working in partnership with Vegware we have been able to boost the recycling rate of the River Cottage Fair by incorporating recyclable packaging into our in-vessel composting process. We are looking at ways to progress this trial and deliver the benefits of enhanced recycling and circularity into the foodservice sector.”

Having food traders on board with the compostables-only rule was vital, but Harry Boglione summed up their response: “I’m a farmer and a food trader, and I think it’s amazing that the packaging I’m using to serve my food on will become compost that I’ll eventually use on my crops.”

Recycling Consultant Eilidh Brunton leads Vegware’s environmental team. “We’re delighted to show River Cottage how foodservice and events can achieve such fantastic recycling rates,” she explains. “Our compostable packaging coupled with our recycling consultancy package is a tried and tested system helping foodservice and events divert waste from landfill or incineration.”

All of Vegware’s packaging is made from plants, not plastic. It’s designed to be recycled with food waste, meaning that no separation or cleaning of the food packaging is necessary. As well as being compostable, Vegware disposables are made from low-carbon, renewable materials. The items used at the Spring Food Fair had 910kg less embodied carbon than conventional plastic-based disposables and used 218kg of recycled content.

Read our compostable packaging case study

See more information about how Viridor transforms food and green waste into high quality soil conditioner across the UK.

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