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What Is Compostable Packaging?

What Is Compostable Packaging?

This guide has everything you need to know – including the What, Why and How of compostable packaging.

What is Composting?

Composting is the natural recycling of organic materials. It’s when organic matter, like leaves, food scraps and even compostable packaging, is broken down by fungi, bacteria, insects and other organisms to create a nutrient-rich fertiliser. This powerful fertiliser can enhance the quality of soil and plants, which has so many positive flow-on effects for the planet.

So, what is compostable packaging then? Simply put, compostable packaging is packaging that has the ability to naturally break down in a composting environment – whether that’s a commercial composting facility or your backyard compost.

A bed of nutrient-rich fertiliser with compostable materials, like fruit and vegetable scraps, on top. The compostable materials are sitting in a brown paper compostable bag to the right of the frame.

What Is Compostable Packaging Made Of?

Compostable packaging is typically made from rapidly renewable, plant-based raw materials, giving it the ability to break down in a composting environment. Leading compostable packaging companies use a range of innovative materials with the lowest environmental impact like Aqueous Coated Paper, Plant Fibre, PLA Bioplastic and FSC™ Certified Wood and Paper.

A diagram showing the life-cycle of compostable packaging. The first point reads “materials matter” with images of a tree, corn and cassava. The arrow then points to “ethical supply chain” with images of compostable packaging like plates, bowls and cups. The arrow then points to “end-of-life” with a pile of nutrient-rich compost.

What To Do With Compostable Packaging

There are two main types of composting – home composting and industrial composting. Both create nutrient-rich compost, they just achieve it in different ways. The Certified Compostable Logo on a product will tell you which method to use.

Image of the home compostable logo – illustrating the certification type (Home Compostable AS5810) and the spot where the company’s specific license number should go.

Home Composting

  • It’s all in the name – home composting refers to what’s in your backyard.
  • You can throw things like food scraps, grass clippings and leaves into your home compost and they’ll break down over several months, sometimes years.
  • Because a home compost is at a lower temperature than commercial facilities, home composting can take longer. This means there are also industrial compostable products that won’t break down in your home compost.
  • If a product is certified home compostable to Australian standards (and they have a specific company licence number under the logo to verify this) you can throw it straight into your home compost!
  • But remember, compost bins need to be maintained with regular aeration. Covering the compost at the top will keep in heat and moisture, which are essential for the process.
The industrially compostable logo to Australian standards (AS4736). It is a green circular logo with a seedling with two leaves. There is also a spot where the company’s licence number should go.

Industrial Composting

  • Industrial composting, also called commercial composting, involves controlled settings with specific temperatures and inputs (like water, air, carbon and nitrogen-rich materials).
  • Because of the controlled settings, a commercial compost rapidly breaks down organic materials. This also means you can compost a broader range of materials and products.
  • If a product is certified industrially compostable to Australian standards (and they have a specific company licence number under the logo to verify this) you can send it to a commercial compost facility.
  • Check with your local council to learn about the industrial composting facilities available. You can check whether your council offers Food Organics & Garden Waste (FOGO) here.

Know Your Compostable Packaging Logos

To display the logo, a company and its materials must pass strict, rigorous tests at laboratories accredited by the Australian Bioplastic Association (ABA). 

Here’s an example of Certified Home Compostable and Certified Industrially Compostable products correctly showing the logo and verification.

Two hands holding up Aqueous cups – they’re black with a white lid. One is a small cup, the other is large. There’s a wooden table beneath them and the background is blurred.

Aqueous Cups – Certified Home Compostable

Aqueous cups and sugarcane lids are a home compostable takeaway cup solution.

This is verified by the Home Compostable Logo, where you can see both the certification type and a company’s specific licence number.

PLA Clear BioCup – Certified Industrially Compostable

PLA is a bioplastic made from plant-based resources, typically fermented plant starch like corn, cassava and sugarcane. PLA can only break down properly at a commercial compost facility.

This is verified by the Industrially Compostable Certification, where you can see both the certification type and a company’s specific licence number.

A Let It Rot bin liner. It’s white with the certified home and industrial compostable certifications on the bag.

Compostable Bin Liners – Certified Home and Industrially Compostable

This Let It Rot bin liner is made from plant-based corn and can be thrown into BOTH a home compost or industrial compost facility. 

This is verified by the Home and Industrially Compostable Certification, where you can see both the certification type and a company’s specific licence number.

How Do I Send My Compostable Packaging to an Industrial Composting Facility?

A worker behind a compost truck. He’s holding a compostable bag, wearing a high vis and smiling.

Industrial composting facilities are becoming increasingly available in Australia. Right now, 53 councils accept compostable packaging in their residential compost collections and we’re expecting to see this number grow in the near future. 

Here are a few ways you can make sure your compostable packaging ends up in the right place: 

What Happens if My Compostable Packaging Ends Up in Landfill?

While councils and governments work to make composting facilities widely available, it’s inevitable that some compostable packaging will wind up in landfill. We recognise this isn’t the ideal place for compostable packaging (organic waste in a landfill environment emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas). 

In saying that, compostable packaging going to landfill is still better than the alternative: traditional plastic packaging going to landfill. Why? Because traditional plastic packaging is made from finite fossil-based resources, where as compostable packaging is made from rapidly renewable, plant-based resources. 

While you’re sitting tight waiting for more compostable facilities to become available, sign the petition to encourage your council to compost.

Composting – A Small Action With a Big Impact

It’s simple, throwing food waste into a compost bin instead of landfill can have a big impact. Really big. In 2018-2019, organics recycling in Australia saved around 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 – that’s equivalent to planting 5.7 million trees or taking 876,663 cars off the road! (Source)

Here are three more reasons why we should compost.

Diverts Waste 

Composting stops valuable materials from ending up in landfill. By composting, we reduce food waste and turn it into incredibly valuable nutrient-rich compost instead. This has both economic and environmental benefits.

Green Flower Icon

Enriches Soil

The ground beneath our feet is crucial to life on earth. By composting, we’re adding precious nutrients to the soil. This promotes healthy soils that require less water, fertiliser and pesticides, as well as promoting resilient farming systems and supporting food security.

Combats Climate Change

If global food waste were a country, it’d be the third largest emitter of global greenhouse gases. (Source) By composting, we’re reducing these GHG emissions, capturing carbon and returning nutrients to the soil. This can ultimately reverse the effects of climate change.

Compostable Packaging Challenges
(and What We’re Doing)

Council Support

The National Waste Policy Action Plan has created a target for all packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2025.  However, composting still isn’t widely accessible for many communities.

Compost Connect is staying ahead of councils by connecting businesses to compost pickup services. If you’d like your council to start composting sooner, you can also sign this petition.

Materials Availability

Making sure all food packaging products are made from compostable materials is an ongoing challenge – yet something we see as possible.

Our board is committed to constant research and development to find better, more sustainable ways of doing things. This means when a new innovative material becomes available, we will be one of the first to know about it.


Composting can be complicated.

Industrially compostable, home compostable, biodegradable and recyclable claims all mean different things, so it’s little wonder why so many consumers are left confused.

We’re working to simplify composting for everyone. Through education, we want to create a world where people know what to do with their organic waste.


PFAS (AKA forever chemicals) are found everywhere. The discovery of PFAS in sustainable packaging products has meant that many commercial composting facilities have started turning this packaging away.

Leading compostable packaging companies are moving quickly to completely phase out PFAS from their products by the end of 2024.

Government Support for Composting in Australia

Do you know if your council composts?

And more importantly, do you know what your council accepts in your compost bin?

Right now, 53 councils in Australia accept compostable packaging in their residential compost collections.

Common Composting Questions

Look for the compostability logos on the product and, more importantly, the company’s specific licence number. To comply with single-use plastic bans, the item or brand must have a local Australian certification. And there’s only one source to determine this, The Australian Bioplastics Association. Their website has a full list of all companies and products that are certified. If a product is not on this list, it’s not certified compostable in Australia. Remember, to ‘adhere’ to compostability standards is not the same as being certified.

At the moment, there’s no national mandate to implement food and organic waste collection (FOGO) in Australia and New Zealand. Some states have mandated FOGO, while others only have voluntary targets. We must encourage states, territories and local councils to implement firmer targets and stronger regulations.

In July 2022, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) released a Position Statement on acceptable inputs for residential Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO). Unfortunately, compostable packaging did not fall into these acceptable inputs.

Some sustainable packaging companies are moving quickly to completely phase out PFAS in production and are working with NSW EPA to allow compostable packaging in FOGO bins.

There are a few key reasons:

– PFAS contamination. There are concerns over PFAS – “forever chemicals” that don’t biodegrade and persist in the environment with potential adverse effects. However, there’s currently no proof that PFAS contamination in compost facilities originate from compostable packaging. PFAS contamination could potentially originate from other sources like biosolids, house dust or industrial waste.

– Leading compostable packaging companies are moving quickly to completely phase out PFAS in production by the end of 2024.

– Contamination from non-compostables. Many non-compostable items are entering the organic recycling waste stream which can create issues in processing and contaminate compost. Some items are mimicking compostable colours and shapes, while others are misleadingly or incorrectly using compostable certification logos. With education, clear labelling and regulations, this issue can be solved and we may see more compostable items become accepted in organic recycling streams.

If you’d like to have a say, contact your local council to emphasise the importance of FOGO collections and the value of including certified compostable packaging used to serve food. 

You can also sign our petition to get your council to start composting!

Products containing added PFAS cannot be composted in home and industrial composts.

Leading compostable packaging companies continue to innovate and launch new and exciting packaging solutions. Within the next 12 months, we’re expecting to see a plant-based and home compostable PLA bioplastic called PHA – a new home-compostable material created by microbes through the fermentation of renewable materials like plant sugars or vegetable oils. This will truly revolutionise the packaging industry. 

Yes. If a product is certified home compostable to Australia standards (AS5810) you can throw it in your backyard compost. This can be verified by the Australian Bioplastics Association.

Yes. The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) is the peak industry body for manufacturers, converters and distributors of bioplastic products and materials through Australia and New Zealand, making the home compostable verification standards applicable in both Australia and New Zealand.

Aqueous cups are today’s home compostable solution. They:

– Biodegrade in less than 12 weeks in your home compost
– Contain less than one-third of the waterproof material needed in a PLA-lined alternative

Composting For Businesses: Compost Connect

We connect businesses to compost pickup services. With 28 compost partners covering 2,699 postcodes across Australia and New Zealand, we can help you turn your traditional ‘waste’ into nutrient-rich compost.

Step 1

Find Your Local Composter

Step 2

Sign Up and Receive Your Bin(s)


Step 3

Fill Your Bin for Regular Collection