UCL has released a study (3 November) on the ability of packaging marked ‘compostable’ to break down, saying that 60 per cent of compostables are not fully compostable at home.
The study found that the public is ‘confused about the meaning of the labels of compostable and biodegradable plastics’. It suggests – to avoid packaging ending up in landfill or incineration – the implementation of a UK-wide system of collection for compostable and biodegradable plastics which is able to cope with anaerobic digestion (AD) systems. It also concludes that there is a need for clearer on-packaging labelling.
The study used citizen science methods to collect information on understanding and attitudes around compostable and biodegradable plastics, as well as encouraging citizens to carry out ‘experiments’ at home designed to test the effectiveness of home composting.
Responding to the study, BBIA Chairman, Andy Sweetman, said: “The results of this welcome research show that compostable packaging actually does biodegrade but that there is huge variability when the process is handled through home composting, and confusion over which materials are suitable.
“Many home composters are actually trying to compost plastics which are not at all compostable. We need to end the use of terms like degradable and biodegradable to avoid consumer confusion.
“In order to treat food and garden waste most effectively on a large scale, we need household collection systems and industrial composting. Consumers should be encouraged to place certified compostable packaging into their food waste bins as in many countries around the world.
“Home composting is a part of the picture and we encourage this practice. Large-scale composting is achieved through an industrial process, involving both a composting phase and anaerobic digestion to produce soil-improvers and biogas, and gives all householders a route to recycling food and garden waste along with certified compostables.”