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Compostable Certifications – Why Do They Matter?

Compostable Certifications – Why Do They Matter?
The two compostable certifications you should look for in Australia. On the left, the industrially compostable logo to Australian and European standards (AS4736 and EN13432). It is a green circular logo with a seedling with two leaves. To the right, the home compostable logo to Australian standards (AS5810). It is a home compost bin with two arrows.

Do you recognise the compostable symbols, but still not know how to dispose of the product?

Have you ever wondered how products prove their compostable claims are true?

Or perhaps you’re wondering how companies get the rights to use the compostable logo?

Truth is, compostable logos aren’t always used properly and some compostable claims are misleading or just plain greenwashing.

Thankfully, there’s a key trademark you should look for to know the truth – The Certified Compostable Logo from the Australasian Bioplastics Association.

What Do the Certified Compostable Logos Mean?

Certified Compostable Logos prove compostable products are what they claim to be.

It means they’ve undergone a stringent test regime to become certified home or industrially compostable to Australian and New Zealand standards. But it’s more than a logo, it’s a registered trademark owned by the Australasian Bioplastic Association (ABA) – a peak industry body dedicated to promoting compostable bioplastic materials that are made from renewable resources.

Other countries may have their own compostable certifications in place, like the OK Compostable Certification (authorised by European Bioplastics) and BPI Compostable Certification (North America). But in Australia, the ABA Certification is the only source of truth regarding a product’s compostability claims.

A person holding a handful of nutrient-rich compost with a seedling growing from it. Surrounding the seedling is organic food waste.

Understanding Certified Compostable Logos and How To Read Them

In Australia, there are two types of compostable standards under the Australasian Bioplastic Association (ABA): Home (AS5810) and Industrial (AS4736).

To check if a product is certified, look for one of these two logos AND the company’s sub-licence number stated underneath.

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.
Industrially Compostable Logo (AS4736)

Products with this logo are certified industrially compostable to Australian standards. This means they can be sent to a commercial composting facility to rapidly biodegrade under controlled conditions, like specific temperature, moisture and carbon levels.

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.

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 Compostable Logo (AS5810)

Products with this logo are certified home compostable to Australian standards.

This means they can be thrown into your backyard compost along with food scraps, grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter.

They’ll break down over several months, sometimes years. Products typically take longer to biodegrade in a home compost because the conditions aren’t as controlled.

The Australian and New Zealand composting standards are similar to the well known European standards, only in Australia, products have to pass an additional ‘worm test’ to make sure there are no toxic effects on plants and earthworms.

Where To Dispose of Packaging With the Certified Compostable Logo

Industrially Compostable (AS4736)
  • Some councils accept packaging in their Food Organic & Garden Waste (FOGO). Check if your council is composting here. 
  • Visit businesses on the Compost Club Map
  • If there are no commercial compost facilities available, the last option is to place it in your regular waste. While this isn’t ideal, it’s still better than the alternative (single-use plastic made from fossil fuels going to landfill).
Home Compostable (AS5810)
A person throwing a compostable cup and banana peel in an organics bin.

Why Does The Certified Compostable Logo Matter?

Any product or company can claim they’re certified compostable but these claims don’t mean anything without proof. Under the Australasian Bioplastics Association, products have to go through stringent test regimes to get their stamp of approval.

The process of gaining compost certification can be time-consuming and costly, but the use of the correct logo shows a brand commitment to doing the right thing. This is why we – as consumers – should always trust and support products showing the correct logos.

By understanding the seedling logo or home compostable logo (and spotting any false claims that fall outside of this) consumers can help take a stand against greenwashing and encourage manufacturers to be honest and transparent. The more products we have displaying the certified compostable packaging logo, the better.

Look Out for Greenwashing
– Incorrectly Used Compostable Logos

A logo made up to mimic the ABA certification, but it’s not the official certified compostable logo.

You can see in this example, a company has made their own ‘certified compostable logo.’ This is greenwashing and not verified by the ABA.

Compostable seedling logo without a certification number.

You can see in this example, the company has used the seedling logo but doesn’t have a certification number beneath it. This makes it unclear for the consumer on how to correctly dispose of the product.

Compostable logo WITH a certification number, but without a company’s sub-license number

You can see in this example, the company has used the seedling logo and the certification number. However, there’s no company licence number beneath it. This makes it hard to know whether they’re actually certified.

The big problem: products that mimic compostable packaging but aren’t properly certified can contaminate compost.

In industrial settings, it’s difficult for composters to differentiate and remove the non-compostables – which means they end up taking ALL packaging out – even certified compostable products made by companies committed to doing the right thing.

In your home compost, you might dispose of these non-compostable greenwashing products and they won’t degrade properly, having negative effects on your compost bin.

This is why we should all support products with the correctly used certified compostable logo.

What About Biodegradable Certifications?

In Australia, a product cannot be ‘certified’ biodegradable. Everything ‘biodegrades’ eventually – it could take days, weeks or hundred years. That’s why ‘biodegradable’ is a contentious claim not trusted by the organics recycling industry.

What’s more, some packaging on the market is labelled as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘OXO-degradable.’ However, these are often just made from conventional plastic and contain additives to help it break down (they still leave behind microplastics).

So remember, any product labelled as ‘biodegradable’ isn’t verified to degrade within a specific timeframe, so it should be disposed of in the general waste bin. Avoid ‘biodegradable’ logos and opt for the Australasian Certified Compostable logo instead.

What’s Involved in an Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA) Compostable Certification?

The process of gaining a certified compostable logo can be time-consuming and costly. This is why we – as consumers – should always trust and support products showing the correct logos. Packaging materials must undergo a strict, rigorous and expensive test regime done at recognised, independent and accredited laboratories by the Australian Bioplastic Association (ABA).

Here’s an example of the strict standards that must be met for a product to be certified industrially compostable to Australian standards (AS4736):

  • 90% biodegradation within 180 days in compost
  • 90% should disintegrate into less than 2mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks
  • No toxic effect on plants and earthworms (this currently isn’t a requirement under European standards)
  • No hazardous substances (like heavy metals) present above the maximum allowed levels
  • Containing more than 50% organic materials
  • Chemicals PFOA & PFAS not to be intentionally added to the material or product
Jeffrie’s organics recycling truck collecting organic waste that will be turned into compost.

Compostable Logo FAQS

In Australia and New Zealand, there’s only one source to determine this, The Australasian 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’ or ‘meet the criteria’ to compostability standards is not the same as being certified. 

If you’re in Europe, you can check whether a product is certified compostable via DinCertco and TUV Austria.

If you’re in North America, you can check whether a product is certified compostable via BPI.

Products containing added PFAS cannot be certified to home and industrial standards.

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

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 as they only allowed food waste, compostable bin liners and garden organics.

We hope that with more education and more certified compostable products available, we can see this change.

There are a few key reasons:

  • 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.
  • PFAS contamination. There are concerns about PFAS contamination (often referred to as “forever chemicals”). These chemicals don’t biodegrade and persist in the environment with potential adverse effects. In saying that, there’s currently no research that shows PFAS contamination in compost facilities originates from compostable packaging (it could come from many other waste sources). 
  • Compostable packaging is not “beneficial” for compost. There have been concerns that compostable packaging doesn’t add value to compost. However, research into certified compostable packaging has shown no adverse effects on compost through stringent certification. What’s more, if we consider that compostable packaging makes it easier for people to throw both food scraps and packaging in the compost bin, we could be diverting a significant amount of food waste from landfill. 

In a perfect world, all compostable products would end up in a commercial or home compost. But we know that’s not always the case. Sending organic matter to landfill emits methane, contributing to Greenhouse Gas emissions and climate change. That’s why we must encourage states, territories and local councils to implement firmer composting targets and stronger regulations.

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 energy intensive, fossil-based resources, whereas compostable packaging is made from rapidly renewable, plant-based resources.

While there’s only one source of truth in Australia (Australasian Bioplastics Association) other countries may have their own verification programs, like the OK compostable certification from TUV Austria and the BPI compostable certification.

TUV Austria (formerly Vincotte) isn’t a certification logo, but a certification body authorised by European Bioplastics. This means they can award the seedling logo and OK compost logo to compliant compostable products (EN13432).

An OK compostable certification is from TUV Austria (authorised by European Bioplastics). Products featuring the OK compost INDUSTRIAL or the OK compost HOME certifications comply with the European Bioplastics requirements for compostable products. This certification is a reliable source of truth for consumers.

BPI is the leading authority on compostable products and packaging in North America. BPI certified products meet ASTM standards (American Society for Testing and Materials). The BPI certification is a mark consumers can trust.

We know, waiting for widespread change on a government level can be frustrating. Start by writing a letter to your local MP or sign our petition.