Commercially compostable, home compostable, biodegradable, oxo-degradable – the consumer demand for alternatives to plastic packaging and the desire from businesses to lessen their environmental impact has led to a plethora of new packaging choices. But what do these terms mean and where should these items go at their end of life?

To help clear up the confusion a WasteMINZ working group has produced a series of 3 consumer guides which can be downloaded above.

The guides cover:

  • The standards that confirm if a product is genuinely compostable
  • The terms that can be misused and cause confusion, such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘degradable’
  • The best end of life disposal options for each product type. Only certified compostable packaging can be composted and not all commercial composters accept all types of compostable packaging. Materials advertised as oxo-degradable, degradable, or biodegradable, without specifying a composting environment, need to go to landfill as they cannot be composted or recycled and can break down into microplastics if left in the open, marine or freshwater environments.

The guides are summarised below.

  • “A Quick guide to environmental claims for plastic products and packaging” – which is aimed at consumers who want to know the difference between compostable, biodegradable and degradable plastics.
  • “It’s complicated: A guide to biodegradable & compostable products and packaging” –  which is aimed at manufacturers or retailers who need to understand the environmental claims of products they are being encouraged to purchase.  Environmental educators, sustainability experts council staff and consumers who want more details will also find it useful. 
  • End of life flowchart – which provides a pictorial guide to the different terms and their disposal options. The flowchart can be used on its own or to complement the Quick Guide and It’s Complicated. The End of life flowchart can be downloaded as a jpeg and embedded as an infographic provided that WasteMINZ is credited for the image.