Many brands today are trying to improve their sustainability by providing biodegradable or compostable packaging, but these claims can often add to recycling confusion. Neither biodegradable or compostable packaging should be disposed of via your kerbside council recycling bin as it results in contamination of the plastic and recycling stream.
- 63% of Aussies incorrectly think biodegradable and compostable plastic items can be put in the recycling bin. A further 12% are unsure, meaning only 25% of us are getting it right.1
- Biodegradable refers to a material's ability to decompose or break down by living organisms, whereas compostable items are organic matter that require specific conditions and microbes that break down the materials to become a nutrient-rich soil condition.
- Although replacement of fossil-based packaging with bio-based, compostable equivalents made from sugarcane or corn is a significant achievement, without recovery at end of life the nutrients they contain and the embedded water and energy used will be lost.2
- Items that can be composted in an industrial composting facility may not be suitable for home composting. Industrial composting creates an environment where the temperature and moisture levels are closely controlled and designed to accelerate microbial growth. Home composting does not generate as much heat and is usually a much slower breakdown process.
- Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) collections have been introduced by a number of Australian councils (75 out of 538), however not all accept compostable plastic packaging.3
- When littered all types of plastic will persist in the environment for a length of time with the possibility of affecting wildlife.
Choose your action!
- Avoid single-use plastic like takeaway containers, straws and utensils where possible.
- Find where you can BYO container via Trashless Takeaway.
- If your council has a FOGO collection, check if compostable packaging is accepted via RecyclingNearYou or contact your council directly.
- If you have home composting, look for ‘Home Compostable’ verification AS 5810-2010 on packaging to be sure the item will be composted.
1Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
2Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (2019)
3Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (2019)