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Image: TIPA
Image: TIPA

Follow King Charles' example to boost composting

Daphna Nissenbaum
December 13, 2023

It is more than fifty years since King Charles III first raised the alarm about the scourge of plastics on our planet. Way before there was a credible Green Party in the UK, and before most of the rest of the political world took up the challenge, the then Prince of Wales was an environmental warrior at the heart of the British Establishment.

In the 1980s, The Guardian, carped at him for establishing a bottle bank – “a strange machine” for his spent Moet bottles, they alleged – at Buckingham Palace. But the Prince stuck to his guns and has been making speeches and writing private letters to ministers about environmental preservation ever since.

In 2019, he founded the Sustainable Markets Initiative, with the ‘Terra Carta’ as its guiding mandate. It is a profound pledge to which businesses around the world have signed up, committing to ‘harness the precious, irreplaceable power of nature combined with the transformative innovation and resources of the private sector.’

On becoming King on 8th September last year, Charles III told the country, the Commonwealth and a watching world, that he would now be unable to “give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply”.

His relentless commitment to the environment was reflected in his actions when, in 2013, he set up the Duchy Future Farming programme, in partnership with the Soil Association to provide advice and support to UK farmers and growers in conducting research into organic farming practices. He also ensured the company used compostable packaging in efforts to move towards more circular options.

The King understands that nature is the best recycler. Indeed, on King Charles III’s own estate, at Sandringham, compostable packaging and food waste are combined and organically recycled to make compost for the gardens. The head gardener at Highgrove has also developed compost by using shredded paperwork, kitchen leftovers and garden waste.

Most recently, King Charles reached out to international leaders at the COP 28 summit where he said “Harmony with nature must be maintained” drawing on the indigenous concept that all life on earth is connected. By prioritising compostables, we are returning our packaging and our products to the earth which releases essential nutrients into the soil, harmonising with nature.

The Royal approach is somewhat more effective than what has been insisted on by His Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Environment, whose department sees mechanical and chemical recycling as the remedy to all our plastic ills.

We have long argued that Defra should instead be taking the Sandringham and Highgrove model, rolling out combined food waste and compostable packaging recycling as part of doorstep collections around the country.

This is a battle which is not yet won, with ministers doggedly insisting that compostables are not reliable enough to go into food waste streams. But these arguments have long been flawed, and they now have a highly influential opponent as Head of State.

When it comes to the thin films on which we all rely – especially those contaminated with food – every household needs the opportunity to buy compostable alternatives to plastic, and to recycle them alongside food waste.

After all, what’s good enough for the King should surely be good enough for the rest of us.

Daphna N

Daphna Nissenbaum is Chief Executive of compostable packaging developer, TIPA.

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