The world of composting can be confusing. In a perfect world, you’d be able to throw a compostable product in your home compost and watch it disappear. But we’re not quite there – yet.
The way you dispose of a compostable product depends on the composting facilities available in your area and the product’s certification type (this one’s a biggy, because there are a lot of fake or misleading certifications out there).
So, if you’ve ever wondered how to dispose of compostable packaging, this guide is for you.
In Simple Terms – Where To Put Compostable Packaging
Compostable packaging should be made to end up in one of two places – a home compost or an industrial compost.
A home compost is 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.
An industrial compost, also called commercial compost, is a controlled setting 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.
Ok, But How Do You Know if a Compostable Product Should Be Sent to a Home or Industrial Compost?
The answer lies in the Certified Compostable Logo from Australasian Bioplastic Association (ABA). This is the only source of truth in Australia regarding a product’s compostability claims.
There are only two types of compostable logos you need to look for under the ABA: Home (AS5810) and Industrially (AS4736) Compostable Logos. To check if a product is certified, look for one of these two logos AND the company’s sub-licence number stated underneath.
Industrially Compostable (AS4736)
Home Compostable (AS5810)
How To Dispose of Compostable Packaging With the Certified Compostable Logo
Home Compostable (AS5810) Certified Products
- Visit your local community garden. Check if they have a communal compost and whether they accept Certified Home Compostable packaging.
- Strike up a conversation with your neighbours and see if they’ll take your compost for you. You can meet your neighbours here.
- Set up a home compost. It may be easier than you think and there are options for small spaces and apartments.
Industrially Compostable (AS4736) Certified Products
- If you’re a business, you can see whether commercial food waste collection is available in your area and sign up for a compost pickup service.
- If you’re an individual, check whether your local council offers Food Organic & Garden Waste (FOGO). Some councils accept compostable packaging in their FOGO.
- Visit our Compost Club Map and choose to support local businesses that compost their packaging.
- If your council isn’t composting, write them a letter or sign our petition to encourage change.
Can I Just Put My Compostable Packaging in Landfill?
If a product is Certified Industrially Compostable and there are no industrial compost facilities available, the last option is to place it in your regular waste. We recognise this isn’t the ideal place for compostable packaging to end up (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 energy intensive, fossil-based resources, whereas compostable packaging is made from rapidly renewable, plant-based resources, so it’s a more sustainable production process.
While you’re sitting tight waiting for more compostable facilities to become available, sign the petition to encourage your council to compost.
Why Does The Composting Certification 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, time-consuming and costly test regimes.
What’s worse, products that mimic compostable packaging certifications 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.
This is why we – as consumers – should always trust and support products showing the correct logos.
Beware of Greenwashing – Incorrectly Used Compostable Logos
By knowing the certified compostable logos (and spotting any false claims that fall outside of this) consumers can take a stand against greenwashing. The more products we have displaying the certified compostable packaging logo, the better.
Here are a few examples of incorrectly used compostable logos.
You can see in this example, a company has made their own ‘certified compostable logo.’ This is greenwashing and not verified by the ABA.
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.
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.
Is Composting the Best Choice for Foodservice Packaging?
Composting is a form of recycling – organics recycling! So when both traditional recycling and organics recycling are done correctly, we can reduce what we send to landfill and work towards a zero waste circular economy.
We see composting as the perfect end-of-life option for foodservice packaging. That’s because packaging and food waste can all go in one bin. This will ultimately help keep food waste out of landfill.
How To Dispose of Compostable Coffee Cups
Certified compostable coffee cups can be treated the same as other certified compostable packaging.
- If it holds the Home Compostable (AS5810) Certification, throw it in your backyard compost.
- If it holds the Industrially Compostable (AS4736) Certification, check whether your local council accepts compostable packaging in their FOGO. Alternatively, visit a cafe that composts their packaging.
Can Compostable Packaging Be Recycled?
Technically, composting is a form of recycling – organics recycling!
But if you’re wondering about other forms of recycling for food service packaging, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation have come up with a labelling system to help.
APCO launched The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) Program, an on-pack labelling scheme to help you know whether packaging is recyclable.
It’s important to note, many food service packaging products aren’t recyclable if they contain food residue (hence why we see composting as the best end-of-life option for the food service industry). Some products will also claim they’re recyclable but they aren’t.
Here’s a breakdown of the different Australasian Recycling Labels (ARL logos), developed by APCO in conjunction with the Australian Government. Look for these labels on your packaging to know for sure if it’s recyclable through your kerbside bins or other systems.
This is assumed safe for kerbside recycling. To get this logo, more than 80% of councils must accept this item in kerbside recycling.
This means you must follow the specific instructions beneath the label in order for the item to be recycled.
This means an item cannot be recycled in kerbside recycling and must be placed in your general waste bin.
This means an item MAY be recyclable and it’s necessary to check with arl.org.au for more information.
How To Dispose of Compostable Packaging
To sum things up, here’s three steps on how to dispose of compostable packaging:
- Check that it’s properly certified under the ABA. Look for the Industrially Compostable (AS4736) and Home Compostable (AS5810) logos and the company’s sub-licence number.
- If it’s certified to Australian standards, throw it in your home compost (AS5810) or send it to an industrial compost facility (AS4736).
- If composting facilities aren’t available, write to your local council or sign our petition.