As we become more aware of the impact of waste on our environment, many of us are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. One way to do this is by choosing packaging that is more environmentally friendly. Three common terms that are often used in this context are home compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable. While these terms may seem similar, they are actually quite different, and understanding the difference between them can help us make more informed choices about the products we use.
Home compostable packaging is made from materials that can be composted in a home composting system. These materials break down into organic matter, such as soil, when exposed to the right conditions. The Australian Standard AS 5810-2010 provides guidelines for compostable plastics, and the Australian certification scheme for compostable products, called the Home Compostable logo, is managed by the Australasian Bioplastics Association. Products that carry this logo have been tested and verified to break down in a home composting system within a certain timeframe.
Biodegradable packaging is made from materials that can be broken down by natural processes, such as bacteria and fungi. Unlike home compostable packaging, biodegradable packaging may not break down completely and may leave behind microplastics or other harmful materials. Look out for the Australian Standard 4736-2006 which indicates that a product is biodegradable at a commercially compostable standard only. This means that it needs a specific environment and very high temperature to break down. Australia has very limited commercial composting facilities available and items labelled AS 4736 will not be accepted in your green organics waste bin.
Recyclable packaging is made from materials that can be recycled into new products. The Australasian Recycling Label is a voluntary certification scheme that helps consumers identify whether a product can be recycled and how to recycle it correctly. The label was developed by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation in partnership with Planet Ark and PREP Design. Find out where you can recycle near you.
So, which is best?
When it comes to choosing environmentally friendly packaging, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and the best choice will depend on your individual circumstances. If you have a home composting system and want to create nutrient-rich compost for your garden, home compostable packaging may be the best choice for you. If you’re looking for packaging that will break down naturally, biodegradable packaging may be a good option, but be sure to do your research first. If you want to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfill and conserve natural resources, recyclable packaging is a great choice, but it’s important to ensure that you’re recycling correctly.
As consumers, it’s important to do our research and choose products that are certified to meet these standards and have been verified by reputable organisations. By making informed choices, we can help reduce our impact on the environment and create a more sustainable future.