HEAD TO HEAD WITH GEORGIA BUDDEN, RECYCLING ADVISOR AT VEGWARE
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came about to work for Vegware?
I had previously worked for a small environmental consultancy in Bristol and was delighted to join the Environmental the Team at Vegware. I believe Vegware’s work ethos – embedding producer responsibility into its business – highlights the importance of innovation within the environmental and waste management industry. To me, this is revolutionary and the key to success, the fact that we go beyond selling compostable foodservice packaging by helping our customers in ‘closing the loop’ and in doing so, support the UK’s circular economy.
What would your elevator pitch be for Vegware? (You’ve only got 10 floors and it’s a fast lift!)
Vegware is the global specialist in plant-based compostable foodservice packaging. Our 300+ catering disposables are made from renewable, lower carbon or recycled materials and can all be commercially composted with food waste where accepted. We are proud to be driving change to the recycling infrastructure. One way has been through launching our own composting collection service, Close the Loop, which also assists with going zero waste. With this initiative, used Vegware packaging and food waste are collected from our clients and taken to commercial compost facilities, creating high-grade compost in just under 12 weeks. We recently expanded the service, which is currently available in Bristol, Worcester, Gloucester, and most of Scotland.
How quickly is the foodservice sector adopting a greener approach to packaging?
People are really starting to engage with where their waste is going, what’s happening to it and what SHOULD be happening to it. In 2018, Vegware has seen a surge in requests from the foodservice sector on understanding compostable packaging – from the materials it’s comprised of to how it should be disposed. Customers from large corporate offices to small independent cafes, have taken notice and are actively seeking ways to adopt eco-friendly packaging.
Are there any operators or brands you’re working with who are particularly embracing your approach in pioneering a compostable future for packaging?
Our clientele embodies a wide range of organisations: large corporate offices, hospitals, academic institutions, the public sector, tourism sites, entertainment venues, festivals and independent coffee shops. We even have a church! Within all of these sectors, we have clients who are subscribed to Vegware’s Close the Loop service – no client is too large or too small to subscribe to this service.
Do you think there is enough awareness for operators, suppliers and brands on the sustainability topic and education on becoming more environmentally friendly?
Based on the volume of queries we receive, awareness to make a sustainable switch seems a high priority to them. Vegware’s approach to customers is visiting sites to understand their full requirements so we can recommend the best products to suit their needs. Our services don’t stop here though. We go beyond packaging by offering a full-service environmental consultancy where myself and my colleagues advise on waste management – including composting and recycling solutions – and overall ways a business can go zero waste.
We can also provide communications support by creating bespoke bin signage, conducting staff training and team engagement days, and designing POS to educate staff and the end user on the benefits and proper disposal of our products.
Do you believe that consumers will start to shun high-street operators that don’t deliver a robust sustainability agenda?
Consumer awareness on adopting greener practices is on the rise, and they are asking foodservice establishments to make a change. Vegware receives questions daily from consumers by phone, email and social media who want to understand how compostable catering disposables can help them reduce their plastic waste usage.
Finally, if you were Prime Minister for the day, what single policy would you put in place to ensure a more sustainable future for the hospitality industry?
I would mandate that all households and businesses in the UK had access to 2 recycling bins: one for conventional packaging, and one for biowaste including food and packaging.