Often made of plant-based matter, compostable plastic is a material capable of breaking down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at a rate comparable to cellulose. Compostable plastics decompose completely in a composting environment and do not leave any toxic material behind.
Bioplastics is a term used to describe materials that are bio-based and/or biodegradable. Derived from renewable sources, such as plant-based starch, sugarcane or cellulose, they are used to manufacture products intended for short-term use.
Bioplastics are used for a variety of products across a range of industries, including electronics, automotive, agriculture and gastronomy. Some common uses for bioplastics include packaging materials, food packaging, hygiene products and insulation.
The words biodegradable and compostable are often used interchangeably but there are some differences between the two. Both will decompose in a composting environment, however compostable materials decompose at a faster rate than biodegradable products. Almost all compostable material is biodegradable, but not all biodegradable material is compostable.
Yes. All certified compostable materials will break down when placed in a composting environment in a home or commercial facility.
Globally, there are a number of product certifications that recognise a product’s level of composability. Look out for symbols and logos printed on your packaging with the following numbers.
- EN13432 (2000) – European Certification.
- OK bio-based – Austria.
- ASTM D6400 (2004) – Biodegradable Products Institute in North American.
- BNQ 0017-988 (2010) – Standards Council of Canada.
- 4736-2006 from the Australasian Bioplastics Association.
The seedling logo and OK compost logo is widely used on packaging produced for Australia and Europe to verify the product’s claims of biodegradability and compostability. These products are certified to biodegrade in an industrial composting facility.
If you have a home composting facility, you can dispose of the bag in there. If not, you can drop it at a local industrial composting and organics recycling facility. Some councils also provide composting facilities through their kerbside waste collections – either through green organic and garden waste bin or through dedicated organic recycling service. Check with your local council to determine the best approach to composting in your area.
Please don’t throw compostable items into the rubbish bin. Compostable plastic will not break down properly in landfill. They require air and moisture to properly decompose, so it’s up to you to ensure your compostable bag ends up in a composting environment.
No, you shouldn’t throw compostable bags in with general recycling. This creates an additional step for the recycling plant to sort out bioplastics from recyclable plastics and it may never end up in a composting facility.
The speed at which your bag decomposes depends on its material makeup and the composting facility it is deposited into. As a general guide, all Because We Care products will completely compost in 90 to 180 days.
Because We Care products meet international standards for home and industrial composting, which means they can be disposed of in either type of composting facility safely. The real difference is the time it takes to break down. An industrial facility will break down the material faster because there is more movement; the piles are consistently turned over and they reach higher temperatures.
All Because We Care products are made from renewable plant-based materials. Our film bags, including Doggy Bags, Check out Bags and Bin Liners are made from corn starch compostable materials. Our reusable non-woven bags, such as our wine and tote bags, are crafted from tapioca starch.
Australia maintains some of the strictest measures for biodegradable and compostable plastics globally. Any product that meets the Australian Standard test must comply with a set of assessment criteria that verify the product can biodegrade in a composting facility. This test is referred to as AS4736-2006 and helps to regulate polymeric materials entering the Australian market. It is similar to the European EN 13432 standard, but with the additional requirement of a worm test.
To comply with the AS4736-2006, materials must meet the following criteria:
- Minimum of 90% biodegradation within 180 days in compost
- Minimum of 90% disintegrate into less than 2mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks
- No toxic effect of the resulting compost on plants and earthworms
- Hazardous substances (such as heavy metals) should not be present above the maximum allowed levels
- Materials should contain more than 50% organic materials
The seedling logo clearly identifies products that are certified compostable in Australia and New Zealand. The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) launched the seedling logo to clearly differentiate packaging materials as biodegradable and compostable.
To achieve this certification, products must undergo the stringent tests outlined by AS4736 and carried out by independent laboratories.
The seedling logo can be used by the product manufacturer and their customers. It can be printed on the finished product to verify the authenticity of the item’s eco-claims and compliance with AS4736-2006. This mark helps customers and waste disposal units easily recognise a piece of compostable packaging and dispose of it in the correct way.