Understanding compostable plastic

Commercially compostable, home compostable, biodegradable, oxo-degradable – these are terms we’re seeing more and more, but sometimes it is difficult to work out what all these terms mean and where they should go at their end of life.

To help clear up the confusion a WasteMINZ working group has produced a series of consumer guides.

The guides cover:

  • The standards that confirm if a product is genuinely compostable
  • The terms that can be mis-used and cause confusion, such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘degradable’
  • The best end of life disposal options for each product type. Only certified compostable packaging can be composted and not all commercial composters accept all types of compostable packaging. Materials advertised as oxo-degradable, degradable, or biodegradable without specifying a composting environment, need to go to landfill as they cannot be composted or recycled and can break down into microplastics if left in the open, marine or freshwater environments.

The guides are summarised below

  • “A quick guide to environmental claims for plastic products and packaging” - which is aimed at consumers who want to know the difference between compostable, biodegradable and degradable plastics. View here
  • “It’s complicated: A guide to biodegradable & compostable products and packaging” - which is aimed at manufacturers or retailers who need to understand the environmental claims of products they are being encouraged to purchase.  Environmental educators, sustainability experts, council staff and consumers who want more details will also find it useful. View here
  • End of life flowchart – which provides a pictorial guide to the different terms and their disposal options. The End of Life flowchart can be used on its own or to complement the Quick Guide and It’s Complicated.  View here. You are welcome to share the infographic, host it on your website or incorporate it into your own communications.

A reminder that the list of facilities which accepts compostable packaging is available to view on the WasteMINZ website here