A composting bin

Can I put compostable packaging in my compost bin?


It's complicated, whether you can put compostable packaging into your composting bin, so read on!

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Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Composting and Compostable Packaging

Composting is the process of decomposing organic matter, such as food scraps, yard waste, and other natural materials, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment known as compost. This can be done through various methods like backyard composting, industrial composting, or vermicomposting.

Composting provides environmental and agricultural benefits by diverting organic waste from landfills, reducing methane emissions, and improving soil health.

Home Composting vs Industrial Composting

Home composting is typically done on a small scale using compost bins or piles in backyards. It involves processing household organic waste and can produce compost to improve garden soil health.

Industrial composting is done at a larger commercial scale, collecting organic waste from multiple sources like restaurants and grocery stores. It uses specialized equipment to rapidly compost large volumes, producing soil amendments, fertilizers, and mulches to sell commercially.

A key difference is that industrial facilities operate at 50-60°C, much hotter than home composts at 20-30°C. This added heat accelerates the breakdown of organics.

Major Composting Certifications

There are several major standards worldwide for verifying compostability of products:

  • United States - Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)
  • Europe - European Bioplastics, Seedling, OK Compost
  • Australia & New Zealand - Australian Bioplastics Association (AS5810 Standards)

These certify for both home and industrial composting conditions.

Benefits of Compostable Packaging

Compostable packaging is made from renewable materials like cornstarch and sugarcane fibers. It is designed to fully break down into compost unlike traditional plastic packaging.

Benefits of compostable packaging include:

  • Created from renewable plant-based resources, not fossil fuels
  • Can be industrially composted instead of landfilling
  • Reduces plastic waste pollution in the environment
  • Better suited for food residue covered packaging and developing economies

What's It Made Of?

Common bioplastics for compostable packaging:

  • Polylactic Acid (PLA) - biobased, suitable for industrial composting
  • Bio-PBS - 50-60% biobased, can be home or industrially composted
  • PHA - from vegetable oils, industrially compostable
  • PBAT - fossil fuel derived but rapidly biodegradable
  • Cellulose - 100% plant-derived for paper and film products

These materials can be blended for different properties.

Compostable vs Biodegradable

The term “biodegradable” is ambiguous. Products may break down into microplastics or under limited conditions.

Some regions now use standards like “compostable” that verify:

  • Complete breakdown into harmless byproducts
  • Within a defined timeframe
  • Under specific conditions

This prevents false or unclear claims.

Composting vs Recycling

Composting processes organic waste like food scraps into a nutrient soil amendment. The end product is compost to fertilize gardens and agriculture.

Recycling involves collecting materials like paper, plastic, glass and metal to transform into new products industrially.

The main difference is the waste type and process. Composting handles organics naturally while recycling handles inorganics through manufacturing new materials.

Home Composting Tips

Follow these tips for composting packaging at home:

1. Check for a certified home compostable logo

2. Shred packaging into smaller pieces

3. Mix with food scraps and yard waste

4. Keep compost moist

5. Turn compost weekly for aeration

In 180+ days, 90% of certified home compostable plastics should disappear, fully biodegrading after 12 months without toxicity.

Composting vs Food Cyclers

Both divert food waste but work differently:

  • Composting handles all types of organic waste like yard trimmings. It is decomposed over weeks or months through microbial activity into a soil amendment.

  • Countertop food cyclers like the Lomi quickly grind only food scraps into a liquid fertilizer using heat, blades, and dehydration. This is convenient for small home gardens.

Compostable packaging requires the time, heat, and microbes of composting and will not break down in food cyclers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put compostable packaging in my curbside organics bin?

Compostable packaging should not go in most curbside bins, which are for food and yard waste only. Find out from your local council if industrial compostable packaging is accepted. Home compostable packaging can go in backyard compost bins.

Are compostable plastics really better than normal plastics?

Compostable plant-based plastics still take resources to produce and generate carbon emissions, so they have tradeoffs vs traditional plastics. But they provide an eco-friendlier option that breaks down completely for items that can't be easily recycled.

Can compostable packaging go in my recycling?

No. Compostable packaging should never be placed in recycling bins. It requires a compost environment to break down and will contaminate conventional plastic recycling streams.

How do I know if packaging is compostable?

Look for credible third party certification logos like BPI, Seedling, OK Compost, or Australian Bioplastics Standards. This ensures the packaging has been independently tested to break down in composting conditions.

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