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Our Product End of Life Strategy
December 20, 2023
Since premiering our product, we’ve received a lot of interest about our product’s end-of-life.
The short answer: we are intentionally pursuing industrial compost certifications. We see this as the most realistic end-of-life strategy to deal with the massive volume of non-degradable, petroleum-based traditional floral foam that ends up in the landfill each year.
We understand that the most sustainable flower arrangement would be no arrangement at all. But what a sad world that would be. Floristry exists to bring beauty and creativity to our world, but the industry, like any consumer industry, has a significant environmental footprint. One of the main culprits of environmental damage is traditional floral foam. It is a petroleum-based material made from phenol and formaldehyde. Over long periods of time, it breaks down into microplastics, leaving one end-of-life option: the landfill.
Many leading organizations around the world are bringing attention to the issues with traditional floral foam. We have been watching this movement grow and have come across a number of florists that want to eliminate foam from their everyday operations. However, most florists we have encountered still use traditional floral foam for one application or another. This is especially true for florists with businesses that depend on high volume to stay afloat, or design arches, pillars and wall displays. Traditional floral foam has become a fundamental part of their operations and even florists who know how damaging traditional foam is for the environment depend on foam to stay in business.
A study funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (link to download below) estimates that 15,000 metric tonnes (33 million lbs) of traditional floral foam is used in Europe every year. That's 250 million bricks of foam destined for the landfill. Combined with the US, we estimate at least 500 million bricks of foam are added to landfills every year in Europe and the US alone.
The reality is that traditional floral foam is still in high volume use. Until we see significant legislative changes, traditional floral foam will remain a staple in the floristry industry even as some florists choose to move away from the product.
Until now there has not been a viable alternative to traditional floral foam. Phoam Labs’ floral foam is the first viable replacement for traditional foam that performs, can be reused, is made of renewable resources, and has a sustainable end-of-life strategy: industrial compost.
While home composting is a fantastic option for many single-use consumer applications, we need to rely on industrial composting facilities to deal with the sort of waste volume created by the floral industry. For reference, the same study mentioned above specifically targets floral foam as one of only 25 products that are suitable for biodegradable materials. On home composting it states:
“Home composting (or garden composting) is often used by individuals or even farmers for garden or kitchen waste. Conditions here can fluctuate, as they cannot be easily controlled. In general, the temperature and humidity are much lower than in an industrial composting plant, with no opportunities for quality control. The proportion of fungi and bacteria is influenced by several factors such as weather conditions and composting practices. It is a slower process than industrial composting, which produces a comparatively small volume of waste, and does not lend itself to handling large volumes of compost throughout the year.”
This is not to mention that much of traditional floral foam waste is generated by large events, hotels, and in cities where home composting is not a realistic option for most businesses. People receiving arrangements at home will still be able to dispose of their arrangements - flowers and phoam - into their municipal compost bins to be hauled away to compost facilities and turned into nutrient rich soil amendment.
In the end, there are many ways we can make the floral industry more sustainable. Phoam Labs is on a mission to reduce plastic waste in the floral industry and we look forward to engaging with industry leaders who are leading the charge on sustainability. We also look forward to sharing our compost certification progress with you as we receive it – it is a very long and expensive process but please stay tuned!
For reference, the link to download the study mentioned is here: https://renewable-carbon.eu/publications/product/biosinn-products-for-which-biodegradation-makes-sense-pdf/