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How Green is your Brown?

How green is your brown 4

Now that the plastic pollution crisis has ignited mainstream awareness, we’re seeing a growing appreciation for natural and biodegradable materials. 

Good old brown paper has become a reassuring packaging choice for people who want to reduce their waste. This has made the unbleached aesthetic of natural fibres a growing green trend. These days, brown is synonymous with green.

The real deal vs. window dressing

We think it’s brilliant that people are appreciating natural, plant-based materials. But unfortunately, not all products that look green (AKA brown) are green all the way through.

We’ve all seen the following: brown paper bags, paper tubs or containers, with…. a plastic lining. They look and feel natural and biodegradable on the outside, but on the inside they’re plastic. 

Turning biodegradable materials into a plastic-lined composite strips them of all their benefits. They become long-lasting waste, no longer able to easily break down, and very difficult to recycle. It’s also misleading to consumers, and makes it much harder to separate waste into compostable and recyclable streams. A real waste of good materials.

Short term convenience with long term impacts

Of course, the plastic lining in these products is added to give functional advantage. Plastic has a high barrier to water, grease and microbes. But these same features prevent it from breaking down, passing on an enormous environmental burden. Because plastic doesn’t fit into biological cycles, it disrupts ecosystems and wildlife, resulting in the death of millions of sea mammals and birds annually, along with other negative impacts. Eish.

A brown bag without a plastic lining might soak up more moisture and oils from any food inside. But it’s still very functional, and after use it can be easily composted. Often, we can simply do without plastic.  If, however, a product really needs a lining, we can use a compostable, low carbon bioplastic lining (like GREEN HOME’s Hot Cups). Or we can use a reusable container or cup instead. And as the market grows, new innovations will continue to deliver increased functionality to compostable products.

Biodegradable packaging products are designed to really fit into circular, waste free systems, not just look like they do. They’re so much more than a skin-deep green trend. And choosing and using truly green products is an essential commitment to building a waste-free culture.

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