Why we don’t say “plastic-free”

The importance of understanding claims 

People are becoming increasingly aware of the products and materials they are using and consuming.  As demand for more sustainable items grows, so too does the inevitability that some of the claims associated with these products will be dubious. Rather than making generic environmental claims, Vegware believes in educating consumers about the impact of different materials.   

What are plastics?  

The easiest way to define plastic is “made from polymers”. This means that the definition of plastic is wide-ranging. Not only does it include oil-based traditional plastic, but also plant-based, compostable materials such as PLA.  

Providing a clear picture   

We’ve all seen increasing use of the term plastic-free in foodservice products such as cups and cartons. This term is sometimes used when an aqueous or water-based coating has been applied to paperboard create a waterproof barrier.  

The process of applying a water-based coating is more like “painting” on a lining rather than gluing it to the cup – this means it soaks into the material to work as a barrier.  


Compared to traditional cup linings, these coatings contain much lower levels of plastic but despite this, they cannot be considered completely plastic-free because plastic polymer is still present.  

Two Vegware double wall cups on a wooden board with coffee beans
PLA-lined paper cups (such as our double wall cups), and aqueous-lined ones cannot be considered completely plastic-free

Compliance with regulations   

We use the SUP definition as a guideline for how we meet requirements for different countries, ensuring we, and our products and customers, remain compliant.   


Single use regulations allow an exception for a small level of polymer in glue or paint in these types of products. This means a small amount of plastic is still permitted to be present in the material.  

This exception has led to companies using the definition loosely, resulting in these products often being claimed as plastic-free where strictly speaking there is still a low level of plastic in the item.  


This is why we don’t use the term plastic-free for any product containing even a small amount of polymer in a water-based coating.   


Our commitment  

Vegware is committed to using compostable materials in our products. Compostable materials are designed to break down, in specific environments, and to accepted standards that leave no harmful residues behind.  Our aim to divert food waste from landfill, into composting and we want businesses and consumers to make informed choices about the products they use and how to best dispose of them by being clear in our messaging. Talk to our experts environmental@vegware.com

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