As more companies become aware of the damage that waste is having on the environment, they are promoting their products as “compostable” or “biodegradable”. Supermarkets are providing compostable bags as an alternative to plastic bags as well, but it is not as simple as they try to make you believe.
Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials, as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. While biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions.
In theory, bags labelled as 'compostable' are made from vegetable matter like potato or corn starch which fully break down. However, the conditions must be right for them to break down and it often it isn't hot enough in a home compost situation. It more than likely needs industrial composting facilities, such as In-Vessel Composting (IVC) where the compost is guaranteed to reach high temperatures.
Look for the logos:
This product can be put into a home compost bin
This product needs to go into an industrial composting facility such as In-Vessel Composting (IVC) or Anaerobic Digestion (AD). It will not rot down in a home compost bin
You cannot put the following into your home compost bin:
- “Compostable” carrier bags such as those given out by the Co-Op & Waitrose
- “Compostable” magazine wrappers like those now being used by National Trust
- “Compostable” coffee cups
- Vegware – a brand of compostable food containers, but need to go into IVC
- “Compostable” straws, unless they are made of paper
Please do not put any sort of compostable or biodegradable packaging into your brown garden waste bin or the garden waste skips at the Household Recycling Centres as this causes problems with the composting process.
Please do not put any sort of compostable packaging into your green recycling bin – it cannot be recycled and will cause problems at the sorting plant.
If in doubt…. please leave it out.