Composting accelerates the natural process of biodegrading or rotting down organic waste material into a rich soil or compost. Its the only sustainable way to deal with our waste… we love it.
Biodegradable means …..
Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism, such as fungi or bacteria over a period of time.
They must degrade into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem.
You can read more about that HERE
To be classed compostable, items must
Biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades.)The resulting particles must be very small.
The resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.
For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the
European Norm EN13432
This is a EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), EN 13432:2000 – “Packaging: requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation”
It was introduced in 2000.
It has been adopted by the UK and is published as BS EN 13432 by the British Standards Institution.
Comprehensive evidence has to be submitted before a product gets ‘compostable’ certification.
Home Composting V Industrial Composting
HOWEVER compostable in this instance means that these certified products will break down in an industrial composters.
Industrial composting are large scale schemes.
Home composting is a bin in your back yard.
The difference is is that industrial composting is a lot hotter and can work more quickly.
Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard compost bin.
Vinçotte, a Belgian accredited inspection and certification organisation, provide a home composting certification service. Products that display the ‘OK Compost Home’ logo, can go in your bin.
The Association for Organics Recycling is working to establish a similar specification for the UK.
Cellulose derived plastics such as Cellophane. These plant derived plastics are amongst the first examples of the product and do biodegrade.
Starch based plastics which are compostable such as PLA plastics. They are certified compostable and do biodegrade.
Composting Compostable Plastic At Home
While most agree that compostable plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in industrial composters. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.
AND I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted a number of products (including Biobags , Deli pots and disposable Cutlery)
It does take longer than other products and sometimes I have found shreds of it in my compost but I dig it into the soil where it quickly disappears.
Most compostable plastics are bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from natural materials such as corn starch. However not all are compostable. For example Ethane based plastics as used Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle which replaces 30 percent of the ethanol in their normal polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle with 30 percent plant-derived ethanol. This means the bottle is still considered PET and can be recycled but is NOT biodegradable. Find out more here.
To be sure you are getting a compostable plastic get one that has been certified.
Check out all our composting posts HERE
Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and do not biodegrade – bioplastics dont mean biodegradable. Yup its confusing but try everything you ever wanted to know about plastic.but were too scared to ask, to find out a lot more about plastic.