By Jeanne Cloutier – Alter Eco Foods / October 1st, 2013
So, you’ve tried our incredible new coconut oil truffles and are in awe of the taste, and the health benefits, and the inspirational stories behind the cacao and coconut farmers…and the taste….and now you may be wondering about these little wrappers and what exactly does “Please compost this wrapper” mean? What are these things made of anyway? What’s the DEAL? You are in the right place.
For the past year, we have been working closely with our chocolatier and packaging manufacturer to source an uncompromisingly and truly eco-friendly wrapper for our newest creation. Well, they didn’t have one, so we pushed further into the supply chain and worked with the individual sources to see what kind of wrapper we could come up with that not only protected the delicate flavor of the truffle, but disappeared easily and safely when finished with it. Truly guilt free!
The end result is a wrapper made of certified Home Compostable* metalized Natureflex printed with certified Home Compostable* non-toxic ink. The “metalized” part is an extremely thin layer of aluminum (measured in microns- you can see through it) in order to protect the chocolate from oxidation. (this means freshness for the rest of us!) The Natureflex is made from FSC certified eucalyptus and birch trees, sourced from specific plantations in South America and South Africa. With ink, there are a myriad of pigments which can contain heavy metals and evil binders. Ours were sourced from the most pure pigments with renewable binders. We think they look pretty good. Did we fool you?
We are the first in North America to have such an eco-pure package. Yep!
Let’s come back to composting for a moment. I mentioned these were “Home” compostable. This actually has a defined meaning. The alternative, for the sake of this post, is “Industrial”.
What’s the difference? Without getting too complicated, the main differences are time and temperature. In a Home Compost setting, the material must break down to carbon-dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials, such as cellulose, and leave no toxic residue. To be truly compostable, the end result of the decomposition must be usable humus. The idea is like a forest floor- it never gets too hot, and it’s exposed to a varying range of moisture, temperature and microorganisms. In short, the conditions are varied which makes the process slower and more challenging.
In an industrial setting, all parameters are controlled. This means the material structure (size of particles), moisture content, aeration (availability of oxygen), temperature, pH, carbon/nitrogen ratio. Material which is deemed “industrial compostable” must be brought to one of these special facilities to be broken down. One of the key differences of an industrial composting facility is the fact that there is regular turning, and moisture and temperatures get monitored during the composting process, achieving over 55 degrees Celsius for a consistent period of time. This will allow certain materials to break down better and faster, and it will kill potentially harmful bacteria from certain foods, such as meat, dairy and cooked foods that are not recommended for home compost situations. This is why those compostable bio-plastic forks aren’t composting in your backyard—they require higher temperatures, shredding (particle reduction) and controlled moisture in order to properly break down into usable material.
You might be wondering what to do with the wrapper if you don’t have a compost heap in the backyard. (Or a backyard for that matter!)
We have a few suggestions:
1) If you do have a compost pile, consider it a carbon-containing input, like leaves.
2) Put it in the green bin (yard waste, or municipal compost pickup)
3) Bury it in your garden. Worms love it.
4) Put it in your fireplace. It’s essentially a fancy looking piece of paper and will burn quickly and safely!
5) Do Not recycle it. It’s not recyclable material. It will be a contaminant to paper-recycling due to its “plasticized” nature.
6) If you have no other options, the correct one is straight up landfill.
What’s next for us is certifying the entire structure as Home Compostable with OK Vincotte. It’s a long process involving lots of testing, but we think it’s worth it. Stay tuned for more updates on that! Even though the individual parts are certified already, the way it is in the certification world is all of them put together means it’s more than the sum of its parts and might break down at a different rate. We welcome the scrutiny!
Thanks for taking the time to read this. You can always reach out with any questions, comments, or encouragement- we love hearing from you!
-Jeanne, Director of Operations
*Ok Vincotte HOME standard