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Takeaway packaging will be replaced by degradable plastics

Update:10 Oct 2020

In view of the food and beverage takeout packaging, the […]

In view of the food and beverage takeout packaging, the new version of "plastic restriction order" also puts forward clear governance requirements in stages and regions according to the general idea of "prohibiting one batch, restricting one batch and replacing one batch".
Ban a batch: by the end of 2020, it is required to prohibit the production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware. "Because polystyrene foam products contain carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and styrene, once ingested by the human body, it will seriously damage the nervous system, lungs and reproductive organs. At the same time, when the waste is incinerated, it is easy to release toxic and harmful gases such as furan and dioxin "(the status of plastics, UNEP, 2018). Therefore, banning the production and sales of foamed plastic tableware at the source, and completely eliminating disposable polystyrene foam plastic, is also the common trend of plastic pollution control in the world.
Limit one batch: first of all, the use of non degradable disposable plastic tableware is prohibited in the catering service of built-up areas and scenic spots. Secondly, by 2025, the consumption intensity of non degradable disposable plastic tableware in the field of catering delivery in cities above prefecture level will be reduced by 30%.
Substitute a batch: in the field of catering delivery, we should promote the use of biological based products and degradable plastic bags that meet the performance and food safety requirements. In addition, the "opinions" put the responsibility on the takeout platform, requiring the takeout platform enterprises to strengthen the management of settled merchants, formulate the alternative implementation scheme for reducing the disposable plastic products, and release the implementation status to the society. This requirement will make the implementation of "plastic restriction order" faster.

Discussion on governance ideas of alternatives
Among the alternatives clearly proposed in the "opinions", the fields of e-commerce, agricultural plastic film, shopping bags and other fields require the use of degradable materials to replace traditional plastics, so as to prevent disposable plastic films from scattering into the environment and causing harm to the environment. However, why do alternatives in the field of food and beverage delivery packaging not use the same degradable materials, but use the different expressions of bio based products and degradable plastic bags?
Bio based materials refer to the new materials and chemicals made from biomass, including Bio based plastics, bio based chemicals, sugar engineering products, renewable biological resources such as cereals, legumes, cotton, straw and lignocellulose, etc. Its environmental advantage is to reduce the consumption of oil resources and reduce carbon emissions. Some bio based materials can be degraded, while others are not.
Next, we will combine the current situation of plastic pollution in the field of food and beverage delivery, from the different end disposal methods of food and beverage delivery packaging waste, to understand why the new policy finally takes bio based products as the consideration basis and treatment ideas of food and beverage delivery field.
First of all, from the perspective of recycling, there are still many difficulties in the recycling of traditional plastic packaging for catering delivery.
1. Food and beverage delivery package is small and large, and the recycling value is low. The weight of a single lunch box is generally about 20 ~ 50g. If the recovery price is 3000 yuan / ton, the recycling price of a lunch box is 0.015 yuan, so the recycling value is very low.
2. Food and beverage delivery packaging waste is scattered in various office buildings and communities, and mixed with different domestic waste, so it is difficult to recycle.
3. The environmental cost of food and beverage takeout packaging waste recycling is high, and the gain is not worth the loss. There are a lot of food residues and a lot of oily and acidic substances in the waste of takeaway packaging, which need to be cleaned before recycling. In the cleaning process, not only a lot of water resources are consumed, but also a large amount of sewage generated in the cleaning process will also bring harm to the environment.
4. In order to meet the requirements of food packaging, different kinds of plastics, such as PP, PS, pet and PE, are used in catering delivery packaging. In order to reduce the cost, some product materials also use mineral filling. A lot of color master materials are added to the product. If these materials are mixed together in the recycling process, it will not only seriously reduce the mechanical properties and use value of the materials after recycling, but also bring secondary hazards to food safety and environment.
Therefore, in general, the recycling value of catering takeout packaging waste is low, the recycling is difficult, and it needs to pay a large environmental cost, and the driving force of recycling is insufficient. At present, recycling is not the best treatment method.
Secondly, from the perspective of biological composting, there are still some practical difficulties in using biodegradable materials as alternative products in catering delivery packaging.
1. The cooking method of Chinese food is frying and frying, which has the characteristics of high temperature and oil, so the packaging materials are required to be able to withstand high temperature, oil and acid; at the same time, the requirements of catering takeout packaging are different from that of after meal packaging, which puts forward higher requirements for strength, toughness and heat preservation. At present, due to the development time of biodegradable materials is still relatively short and the technology is not mature, it can not fully meet the needs of catering takeout packaging. Therefore, from the principle of prudence, we choose the biomaterials with more mature technology and better performance as the substitute materials.
2. In the opinion, most of the biodegradable materials used as alternatives are plastic film products, the thickness of plastic film is generally about 0.025mm, while the thickness of food and beverage takeaway packaging is generally 0.3-1MM, which is more than ten times the thickness difference. In terms of the feasibility of biological composting, it is difficult to meet the household composting standard like plastic film. At present, the development direction of municipal solid waste treatment in China is incineration power generation as the core and sanitary landfill as the guarantee. As a system optimization, the main biological treatment mode is anaerobic fermentation. Few cities have large-scale industrial composting facilities with aerobic composting as the main mode. Therefore, from the actual situation of municipal solid waste treatment, the feasibility of using biodegradable materials that can be composted for food and beverage delivery packaging is low and of little significance.
In addition, from the comparison of plastic restriction policies in various countries in the world and the implementation effect of the ban on plastic products in Jilin Province in 2015, the opinions did not take "one size fits all" in the field of food and beverage delivery, but took "one knife" governance measures, which is more pragmatic, more targeted and operable.
In Europe, due to the low population density, most families have the conditions of home composting, and the requirements for food packaging of Western food are not as strict as those for Chinese food. Therefore, the disposable tableware in the market is mainly plant fiber products, Western food packaging waste is clean and easy to handle. Therefore, compost degradation is widely used to treat domestic kitchen waste, which can minimize the impact on the environment. Therefore, most of the EU countries use biodegradable materials that can be composted at home, and even the biodegradable plastics that can be composted in industry are also listed as prohibited plastics.

Japan will also implement the "plastic restriction order" in July 2020, stipulating the paid supply of plastic bags, but excluding plastic bags containing more than 25% biomass, plastic bags with a thickness of more than 0.05 mm and plastic bags that can be degraded in seawater. The treatment idea is also for ultra-thin plastic bags below 0.05mm, using bio based materials or degradable materials in seawater as the main alternative. This is because Japanese cities are densely populated and do not have the conditions for home composting or industrial composting treatment. The treatment of domestic waste is mainly incineration, so bio based materials are used as an alternative.
In 2018, the latest report "the status of plastics" released by the United Nations Environment Programme pointed out that the "composting" process can be divided into industrial environment and household environment, and the difference is very important. In many cases, products or polymers labeled as "compostable" may mislead consumers into thinking that these products will naturally decompose rapidly in the environment, which can only happen in industrial composting systems where the temperature is around 60 ° C for several weeks. Generally, the low temperature of the home / garden compost tank or reaction tank means that these polymers cannot be biodegraded in this environment. Therefore, in recent years, many European countries have made it clear that the product should not be labeled as "biodegradable" or "compostable" in general, but should further clarify whether the composting method of products is "industrial composting" or "household composting".