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Sustainable cleaning led by a compostable solution

24 March 2020

Stein Bongers, product manager wipes EMEIA at Berry Global, discusses the benefits of innovative and sustainable cleaning solutions for the food service sector.

Hygiene and general cleanliness has become an increasingly critical factor in the food service sector, not only to ensure the safety and quality of food, but also to guarantee sustainable resource and waste management. 

While many companies in the food service sector are increasingly realising how critical it is to adopt the right tools and practices to create sustainable products, improve resource efficiency and minimise their environmental impact, there is one area that is often overlooked – cleaning. 

As traditional cleaning practices have a number of drawbacks, including high cost, low efficiency, remaining surface residues, adverse effects on food quality and a detrimental impact to the environment, and in an effort to support the food service sector in becoming more sustainable, single-use compostable and biodegradable wipes have been developed.  

Innovative product development

It may not seem surprising but across the industry, tea towels are commonly used to wipe hands or surfaces. While these are suitable for drying, they obviously have no actual cleaning properties and are not certified to be in contact with food. Additionally, tea towels are generally made from resource-intensive cotton – in fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it takes in excess of 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton. 

Conversely, nonwoven wipes are actually more versatile and suitable for a wide range of cleaning applications. However, these wipes are traditionally made from non-renewable synthetic fibres such as polypropylene and polyester, making waste management an issue.

With the aim of developing an innovative method to provide sustainable yet convenient cleaning options, Chicopee, a brand of Berry Global, has reimagined nonwoven wipes – its J-Cloth Biodegradable and Compostable is Food Contact Clearance (FCC) approved, compostable, in accordance with the DIN EN13432:2000-12 directive, and biodegradable, making it perfect for the food service industry.

The key benefit of biodegradation is that it is a naturally occurring breakdown process of materials by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi or other biological activity, while composting is a human-driven process in which biodegradation occurs under a specific set of conditions. Essentially, composting is an accelerated biodegradation process which occurs due to optimised conditions. Conditions that are not always easily achievable.

Compostable products, such as J-Cloth Biodegradable and Compostable wipes, present several benefits – for instance, they minimise the amount of waste sent to landfills and the materials used do not produce toxins as they deteriorate.

Compostable products also contribute significantly to environmentally friendly waste management as they are designed to be composted in an industrial composting facility together with food waste. Disposing of the wipes in the appropriate waste bin avoids littering and contributes to a sustainable and circular economy.

In keeping with Chicopee’s commitment to sustainability, the product’s packaging is also environmentally friendly. The wipes come in a biodegradable and compostable polybag and are packed in an outer recyclable carton, made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified materials.

Wiping up the risks and raising reliability

At first glance re-usable cloths may appear more convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly than single-use disposables, however disposability is vital in the food service industry as it helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination – harmful substances and pathogens are commonly transferred from one surface to another via seemingly clean cloths.

In addition, these FCC approved single-use wipes – which are made from PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified natural biodegradable viscose fibres – provide consistent, predictable results. The risk of loss of effectiveness through structural breakdown or retention of contaminants as the result of ineffective laundering is thus eliminated.

By using innovative cleaning solutions that are designed to support sustainability and safety, companies in the food service industry can minimise their environmental impact and reduce contamination risks while satisfying increasingly stringent consumer and government demands.