HOTBIN Can Compost Biodegradable Food Packaging

HOTBIN Can Compost Biodegradable Food Packaging

The HOTBIN was designed and developed to compost most types of food and garden waste fast and efficiently. However, a few years ago, our developers were contacted by Lucy Frankel (UK Food Waste Network) to run a test with biodegradable packaging. At the time, Lucy was building a network to help commercial business do more to divert food waste from landfill.

The purpose of the test/study focused on the use of HOTBIN for small cafes, restaurants, hotels and specifically whether the HOTBIN could compost biodegradable food packaging. Lucy, who at the time also worked for the Vegware, requested some specific tests to see if biodegradable Vegware takeaway packaging such as cups, tableware, glasses and fast-food containers would compost down in the HOTBIN. The trial concluded that HOTBIN can composed Biodegradable Food Packaging.

What is Vegware Take-Away Food Packaging, and What are they Made From?

The Vegware brand of biodegradable food packaging include cups, plates, takeaway boxes, glasses and cutlery.  They are made from either PLA or CPLA, and both materials derived from plant-based substances.

PLA is made from corn starch (similar to food caddy bags) and is an ideal replacement for oil-based plastic in a multitude of applications. These include films, thermoformed products such as cups and deli pots, and also injection-moulded products.

CPLA is a proprietary combination of PLA, chalk and other biodegradable additives and is considered tougher that PLA. CPLA is suitable for high-heat applications such as making cutlery and hot cup lids, as it can take temperatures of up to 85°C without any deformation but is still vulnerable to bacteria during the composting process.

Starting the Trial

Lucy supplied a range of products made from both PLA and CPLA which included cups, plates, takeaway boxes, glasses and cutlery. As with all waste added into the HOTBIN, these items were chopped up first to increase the surface area available to bacteria to speed up the composting process.

To fully test how the items broke down in the bin they were only added into the HOTBIN once the temperature was over 104°F. The HOTBIN was running at 122° F. Given that biodegradable packaging doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value for bacteria to break down the biodegradable items, the items were added every weekend along with fresh food waste.

Vegware decomposing in the HOTBIN After Two Weeks

The containers which were similar to cardboard had no visible remains within the HOTBIN unit. The ‘clear plastic’ (PLA) pots had started to compost with the material noticeably changing colour to white and starting to curl up at the edges. The tougher CPLA spoons and forks unsurprisingly needed longer in the unit for bacteria to continue breaking them down and produce a noticeable effect.

After Six Weeks Results

Only one fragment of ‘clear plastic’ (PLA) glasses remained and the tougher CPLA spoons and forks had all but gone except for two fragments.

Nearly all Vegware biodegradable food packaging was fully composted.


We tested one brand of biodegradable packaging and two different materials based to proof if HOTBIN could compost biodegradable food packaging products. If the test was right, then biodegradable products made from PLA and CPLA based materials, could be composted both at home and at commercial premises.

Our trial showed that the HOTBIN successfully composted all the Vegware food packaging supplied with no problems. Composting time was the only difference between the PLA based materials, that were the quickest to breakdown, and the CPLA based materials that took a little longer.

Assessing the small fragments that were left after six weeks, they were noticeably decomposed and felt soft to the touch. It is possible that these fell to the side when added and dropped to the lower colder zone during stirring. However, given their final condition if left in the unit for slightly longer, or added back into the top of the unit... they would certainly have fully composted within the 12-week timescale stated for a rich compost, if not sooner.

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