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The Compost Writer

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The benefits of running a business ecologically (+ 3 tips)

Corporate social responsibility, climate change, the reuse of raw materials … Sustainability is increasingly becoming the front page head line and gaining importance among consumers. As a retailer, you also reap the benefits of an ecologically ran business. The Compost Bag Company shares some striking figures and practical tips.

Corporate social responsibility is a real buzzword that many companies like to juggle with. But the term means much more than, say, an annual generous donation to charity. A company that does business in a socially responsible manner not only talks about human rights, consumer interests and social, ethical and environmental issues, but also includes these elements in its core strategy.

Sustainable supply chain, less  financial risk

More and more consumers expect companies to be ecological. Research shows that 87% of middle-class consumers take into account sustainability when they purchase a product or a service. In addition, 92% of the millennials do not find profit, but the “ethical result” the most important success factor of a company. In short, sustainability is no longer a plus, but a requirement for the customer.

Corporate social responsibility requires an effort, but also creates an opportunity to distinguish oneself from the rest. Moreover, the financial risk decreases when you invest in a sustainable supply chain, where you take a close look at all suppliers and production processes. After all, consumers are prepared to pay more when a company organizes its supply chain in a sustainable way, which compensates for possible extra expenses.

3 tips for running your retail shop in a sustainable way

Although an ecological business model sounds nice, companies often have no idea how to get started. With these 3 initiatives you are already taking a step in the right direction.

  1. Make sustainability a strategic core pillar

Sustainability should not just be a slogan, but must be part of your business strategy. In this way you not only give your company image a boost, you also save on material and energy consumption.

Example: make use of the green innovations if you grow your business. Think of solar panels, recycled materials and LED lighting. Some supermarkets already provide charging stations for customers who drive electrically.

  1. Give your customers complete transparency

No less than 81% of the millennials show interest in the story behind a product: the people, the ingredients and the production process. In a world where everything can be found online, it makes little sense to disguise things. Open communication is the best strategy to create an image of reliability. Moreover, you can explain why you did not take certain steps yet.

Example: more and more consumers are tired of the many plastic packaging. But plastic remains the most effective way to pack food and thus prevent food waste. By providing insight into how, as a retailer, you approach that challenge in the short and long term, you make it clear that you take the customer’s opinion seriously.

  1. Address the customer where politicians are inadequate

Citizens sometimes get annoyed by the slow evolution of policy. Where governments fail, companies come up with solutions. In this way you gain credibility and the consumer finds more connection with your company.

Example: Several supermarkets take the initiative to reduce plastic consumption by, e.g. banning the plastic produce bags and offering a (sustainable) alternative.

Do you want to run your business ecologically? Discover our Retail Starters Pack

Circular economy, clearly explained (part II)

By 2050, 9.7 billion people will live on this planet. That means more consumption and therefore more production. But as a result, the climate and the natural resources will be even more under pressure. Some suggest that a circular economy offers a way out, but what does that mean? The Compost Bag Company explains it clearly.

Recycling is the solution! Right?

In a circular economy nothing is lost and everything is reused. Recycling, mechanical material recycling to be more precise, plays an important role. The principle is that waste is sorted by material type and then transformed into a shape that can be used to create new objects again.

Is mechanical material recycling really the panacea? Well, not entirely. On the one hand there is the problem of contamination and, on the other hand there is material deterioration.

Even though we do not score so bad for source separation of waste, there is still too much contamination in the material flows. It is virtually impossible to completely extract this in an economically viable way and thus, it ends up in the final recyclate. This pollution reduces the quality of the recyclate, so that it can no longer be reused in high-value applications. Think, for example, of food safety. That is unfortunate, because it stands in the way of pure circularity.

The problem of damage to the material itself is even more dramatic: any material can only be mechanically recycled for a limited number of times. And every time the quality of the material deteriorates. This is the result of damage to the fibers or to the molecules in the material as a result of the mechanical processing. This also stands in the way of complete circularity.

What to do then ?

Until recently, contaminated waste was simply not recycled in Europe, but shipped out to China. But since the end of 2017, China – rightly – has closed its borders for this mess. The most common solution now is shipping it to other third-world countries, or, if that is too delicate, burning it with energy recovery. The heat from the incinerator is used to produce electricity or to feed a heating network. Clever, isn’t it ? Well, as a result the materials are irrevocably lost and that is just the opposite of the intentions of circular economy’s.

The petrochemical industry has plans for chemical material recycling. In contrast to mechanical material recycling, the waste is then broken down to the basic chemical building blocks via pyrolysis. The method allows for obtaining very pure chemicals. Only … pyrolysis literally eats energy like hell. And that makes this kind of recycling extremely expensive.

Gradually, another form of recycling has been breaking through: organic recycling. That is what happens in a composting plant. Compostable waste (organic waste, food scraps from e.g. kitchens and catering, animal manure, CompostBag® products …) are broken down and digested by micro-organisms and transformed into compost. Compost is a soil improver and brings carbon into the soil. Carbon is what plants require to build their structures (stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, …) in a healthy way. Biorefinery is used to extract basic chemical building blocks from plants, which can be used to re-create materials that can be transformed into objects. Admittedly, it is a longer way, but the cycle is closed in this way as well. And it takes little effort. Nature does most of the work.

Ecodesign is the key

Wait a moment! Can you just throw everything with the organic waste? No, certainly not! Because a large part of today’s household waste is not compostable at all. The result would only be that the compost is so contaminated that it can no longer be used, e.g. as a result of microplastics. On the other hand, this would be an elegant solution for overly contaminated waste, especially if the contamination is organic in nature. Think of all kinds of food packaging, where food remains are left behind when you empty them.

The solution lies in ecodesign: preparing for the end-of-life solution right from the conception of the object. Food packaging must be made compostable so that it can be recycled organically with food leftovers.

Today, compost companies are very hesitant about the idea, because they are terrified of non-compostable items ending up in their composting systems. For example, there are compostable alternatives for the traditional plastic fruit & vegetable bags in the supermarket, but as long as there are also still others from traditional plastic, the compost companies hold the boat. They fear that the consumer can not make the distinction. However, there are clear marks and logos indicating certified compostability of an item. That’s where an important role for government lies in bringing these marks and logos to the public’s attention.

And, of course, it is a mission for us all to sort correctly and prevent contamination. Just to be sure, ask your local authority what to do best.

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