Interview with Eilidh Brunton at Vegware, UK’s only fully compostable food packaging company. Founded in 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Vegware is an example of manufacturer able to combine care for the environment with successful business strategy.

Waste is an issue that affects everyone, and we all produce it. In Europe alone, we generate up to 3 billion tonnes of waste every year, of which a whopping 250 million tonnes come from households. Not only is the amount of waste we create increasing dramatically, it’s also changing its nature. There are more complex material compounds and more hazardous substances present in packaging, which are responsible for increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change.

When it comes to food packaging, the topic is even more complex. What began as a simple method of preventing food damage, has developed to such an extent that it now harms the environment. During a growing “green emergency”, and in a highly competitive market, it is becoming necessary to switch to more cost-effective, eco-friendly methods of food packaging production.

Vegware lifecycle – cup to compost, fork to the field from Vegware on Vimeo.

In this contest, more and more companies are turning “green” and investing in sustainable business models. Among them, Vegware, Edinburgh-based manufacturer founded in 2006 by Joe Frankel, committed to providing completely compostable, certified packaging to clients worldwide. With over 50 staff members in the UK only, Vegware currently produces a range of over 250 products, from hot cup lids to high-heat cutlery to soup containers and gourmet boxes, and delivers worldwide through a network of partners and subsidiaries (Vegware US, Vegware Australia, Vegware Hong Kong, Horeca in UAE and Friendlypak in New Zealand).

To find out more about the disposable industry, we have met and interviewed Eilidh Brunton, Group Recycling Consultant at Vegware UK, who allowed us to take a close look “behind the scenes” of this award-winning business.

“It all started around ten years ago when Joe [Frankel, founder] was living and working in California. He happened to find a spoon in a farmer’s market that was made of cornstarch and potatoes,” explains Eilidh, “and he thought this was an amazing idea and was able to see the potential of such a revolutionary business. When he got back to the UK, he decided to invest his life savings in a couple of tonnes of bioplastic resins to be used in the cutlery market, and that’s basically how it all began. In less than ten years, the company has established itself as a top-player in the global production of 100% recyclable low-carbon disposables, all able to be reprocessed along with the food waste itself.”

Vegware’s eco materials from Vegware on Vimeo.

Not satisfied with being the only firm in its sector operating globally, Vegware has worked towards becoming a ‘visionary brand’ firmly committed to achieving zero waste in food services. To do that, they follow their clients throughout the whole composting process, educating people about recycling, thus playing an important role in tackling the stringent, interlacing issues of climate change and food waste.

Roundtable discussion (2016) to bring together the Scottish waste sector | Courtesy of Vegware

Eilidh says: “Vegware has helped establish Scotland as a benchmark to which other countries refer to when discussing recycling. We are currently the 3rd fastest growing company in Scotland and 29th in the UK.”

“What makes us stand out in the marketplace is that we not only sell cups but, thanks to our Food Waste Network, we also provide support and advice in recycling used Vegware items and food leftovers, actively co-operating with our customers towards the transition to ‘zero to landfill‘ status within the food service environment. We want as many of our cups to get composted as possible, so that both our clients and all of us as citizens, can see the benefits this has on our environment.”

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