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Plastic was the name given to early synthetic products such as cellophane,  that were derived from cellulose. These plastics  were biodegradable. Then they learnt how to make similar products from oil. Or rather from the bits of crude left over after they had finished making petrol. The same name was then given the oil derived product. But there were crucial differences. This new product was  made in a very different way and did NOT biodegrade.Since then yet more “plastics” have hit the market. Made from all kinds of things. Some from plant starch and some are certified compostable.

To conclude;
Currently, non- biodegradable, oil derived plastics are the most commonly used and so we tend to ascribe their qualities to all types of plastic.
In fact plastics can be made in a variety of ways from a variety of materials; shale gas, oil, plants even chicken feathers;
And different plastics have very different qualities. Some plastics do biodegrade and are certified compostable
Want to know more about plastic? Read up here

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

Just to remind you:
What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here
What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and 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.
You can find out more here.

Home Or Industrial Compostable?

Home Composting
Composting is usually done on a small scale and most people will be familiar with the concept of a backyard heap or garden compost where household waste is rotted down into garden mulch.
Industrial composting
However large-scale schemes are becoming increasingly popular. In the UK communities band together to compost a whole street is worth of waste. Even city councils are getting in on the act.
These larger projects are sometimes called industrial composting

The difference is is that industrial composting is a lot hotter and can work more quickly.

Home Compostable?
Many products ( especially compostable plastics), have been tested under industrial composting conditions. Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard compost bin.
That said I have composted many such products in my own bin.

Compostable Plastic Products

These compostable plastics, like oil derived, are extremely versatile.
They can be thin and flimsy which means they can be used to make

PLA Compostable Plastic Bags
And liners to for paper cups to make them waterproof.

They can be harder and more rigid making them ideal for making

Disposable Cutlery 
Straws

Deli pots
Rigid packaging for food
Bottles

And longer lasting products like
Phone cases
Or sponges

See a wide range of compostable products HERE

Compostable Plastics Types
Cellulose derived plastics such as Cellophane.
Starch based PLA plastics. They are certified compostable.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs  are linear polyesters produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of ­sugar or lipids.
chicken feathers bioplastic.

Composting Plastic At Home
While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in large scale municipal schemes.
They are wrong. I have been composting plastics for years.
Read more HERE

To be sure you are using a compostable plastic get one that has been certified compostable. Check out the logo.

Compostable Plastic Products

See a wide range HERE

A Note On Bioplastics
Most compostable plastics are also 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.

Other Plastics
There is research being done into developing a compostable, oil-derived plastic. Watch this space BUT don’t fall for the old *biodegradable plastic bag trick see below.

*Compostable versus biodegradable plastics
You might see some plastics labelled described as biodegradable. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the same as compostable plastic. It is not. Some “biodegradable plastics” are oil derived plastics with a degrading initiator added to make them fall apart (degrade) more  quickly. Unlike compostable plastics they don’t always break down into harmless substances and may leave behind a toxic residue. Read more here

More

Check out all our composting posts HERE
Want to know more about plastic? Read up here
See our big list of plastic types here

(Visited 18 times since January 1st 2018. 1 visits today)

6 thoughts on “Compostable Plastics

  1. I have read this material but the one things I am struggling with is a simple on-line purchasing procedure. Where is is possible to actually buy bio-bags for domestic use instead of just reading about it. Been there. Done that. I want to try some of these products, but they are elusive.

  2. Thanks for dropping by – your blog is spot on too! I’m now following you n twitter though I guess you will see that soon enough.

  3. Well done! We really need to let people know the affects that littering causes on our environment. At the end of the day, no matter what the material, it is still not healthy and we should be raising more awareness for this issue via posts such as this one!
    James F

  4. Well done! We really need to let people know the affects that littering causes on our environment. At the end of the day, no matter what the material, it is still not healthy and we should be raising more awareness for this issue via posts such as this one!

  5. Thanks for informing me about the difference between compostable and biodegradable plastics! In a perfect world I wouldn’t use plastic at all, but I always thought biodegradable was pretty much harmless. I’ll look out for that in the future.

    Besma (Curiously Conscious)

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