News & Blog

Read the latest business news, blogs and thought leadership articles from our members, as well as updates on the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's work in the city.

News & Blog

Edinburgh Mela serves up polystyrene ban for zero waste festival food

Posted: 4th August 2015

Edinburgh Mela has banned food traders from using polystyrene and has gone completely compostable with the help of local eco packaging firm Vegware. Vegware’s compostable takeaway packaging is made from plants not plastic, and is can be composted together with food waste.

The Edinburgh Mela is currently recruiting recycling volunteers to help Scotland’s largest festival of world music and dance, held on 29th and 30th August on Leith Links, achieve its zero waste goals.

Edinburgh Mela’s Director Chris Purnell explains: “In every aspect of what the Mela is trying to do, we’re trying to raise the bar – artistic achievement, artistic quality, raise the profile of our event and the people that participate in it. And our waste management policy is part of that process of raising standards. Vegware have been incredibly supportive in guiding us through the processes and helping us achieve our goals.”

Vegware’s Group Recycling Consultant Eilidh Brunton explains: “If New York City can ban polystyrene food containers, so can Edinburgh Mela – there is a huge benefit for recycling. You can’t recycle food with plastic in it, and you can’t recycle plastic with food on it. Most conventional takeaway packaging goes to landfill or incineration, both of which cost £100 a tonne. Food waste recycling costs around £43 a tonne, so compostable packaging can boost recycling rates and save on gate fees. The Mela has a three-bin system: compostables (food waste and used Vegware); dry mixed recycling; and general waste. We see them as an excellent example of a zero waste event.”

This is the third year of Edinburgh Mela’s polystyrene ban and collaboration with Vegware. The compostables-only policy is carefully communicated and enforced, explains Director Chris Purnell: “It’s in traders’ contracts. During the event we have our market managers monitor the situation. If anyone is using non-compostables, even plastic forks, we will tell them they are not complying. The ultimate sanction is that we stop them trading. People do get it.”

Founded in Edinburgh in 2006, Vegware is Scotland’s fourth fastest growing firm with 919% growth over the last five years. From a team of two until 2009, it now employs over 50; its expanded Polwarth base is global HQ, coordinating operations across five continents. Vegware has won over 50 awards including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, and was recently named ‘SME of the Year’ by Scottish Business in the Community for its outstanding contribution to the community and sustainability.

Now in its 21st year, Edinburgh Mela has grown to become Scotland’s largest annual celebration of world music, dance and culture. Over 30,000 people visit Leith Links to enjoy a buzzing programme of live music and dance from across the world over three stages, plus its dedicated Mela Kidzone, beautiful fashion bargains in the Mela Marketplace and irresistible food and drink in the Global Food Village.

Be a recycling volunteer at Edinburgh Mela:
Short film:
Further info:

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
Read more here