Commercially compostable – What does it really mean?

You might be hearing about the terms ‘commercially compostable’ and ‘compostable materials’, but what do they mean?

When a product says it’s compostable, what it means is that that product is made up of materials that have been certified to break down entirely into non-toxic components (like water, biomass and carbon dioxide) that will not harm the environment, given the right conditions. 

During the past few years, in the packaging industry, we have seen an increase in the use of these certified materials, leaving PP plastic as the least desirable choice for packing products. Materials such as sugarcane bagasse, paper, bamboo, palm leaf, and bioplastics are the most popular packaging options as they are certified as commercially compostable. This means these products can be disposed of in a compost bin, and after being collected in facilities with the right conditions, they will break down in 12 months.

Why composting is so important?

It’s not probably the first time you’ve heard about the environmental catastrophe our planet is suffering because of the excessive use of single-use plastics and the lack of education, especially for end-users, when it comes to disposal. Compostable materials are one of the solutions to help prevent this environmental issue. As we already mentioned, compostable (packaging) materials come from renewable resources such as sugarcane, corn starch and paper, among others. Therefore, they do not contain any toxic components. When we add the compost to the soil, it improves its structure and texture, making it better for the growth of plants by adding organic matter. With higher percentages of organic matter, soil can better absorb water, nutrients, and air – which benefits the entire ecosystem by creating an optimal environment for plants and reducing runoff and erosion.

Also, plants grown in compost-rich soil tend to be more resilient to diseases, pests and fungi. This is because compost enriches the soil so, the ‘good bacteria’ and critters present in compost also help fight off harmful pests and other diseases before they can get to plants – thus reducing the need for toxic pesticides.

Now that you have a brief idea of the concept ‘dispose,’ you might be asking yourself how you can dispose of compostable packaging products?

The easiest way is to send them to a commercial compost or facility. Nowadays, many cities and towns provide these bins to local organisations, parks and residents to facilitate the right disposal. There are also plenty of websites where you can find the most convenient facility for yourself.

You can also do it in your compost bin in your garden. A garden compost bin is a small-scale compost that uses natural elements and manual turning to aerate and break down organic materials. On the other hand, commercial composts can break down more dense materials (such as large branches and compostable plastics) that cannot be broken down quickly. 

When it comes to decomposition, compostable product materials are probably the fastest to break down. They will take around 12 weeks (90 days) to break down into non-toxic components given the right conditions. We highly recommend taking compost to facilities because the commercial environment is carefully controlled and regulated to facilitate the optimal degradation of the products. 

Main differences between the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’

Moving forward into the topic, many people tend to get confused between the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’. The main difference is all compostable packaging products are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable. Why? Let’s go a little in detail:

Biodegradable packaging will eventually break down into smaller and smaller pieces by natural processes. However, these products can contain toxic components that will have a negative impact on the environment.

On the other hand, as you already know by reading this article, compostable packaging has been certified to break down entirely into non-toxic components (water, carbon dioxide, and biomass) that will not harm the environment, given the right conditions. 

How to identify compostable packaging?

Knowing the difference between these terms is vital when choosing your packaging, especially when disposing of it. But do you know how to identify or find compostable packaging materials?

Although this is the easiest way to ensure you are purchasing compostable and eco-friendly packaging, if you have any doubts, please get in touch with the CS team info@packagingenvironmental.co.uk of the packaging.

In Vessel Composter and Anaerobic Digestion

Now that you are here after reading the above content, you’re probably thinking how does this apply to me? Or you might be asking what kind of compostable products can I put in a commercial compost facility?

The first thing you need to know is the types of commercial facilities that exist. We have two main types of commercial composting facilities in the UK.

On the one hand, we can find In Vessel Composter, also known as IVC. IVS system is used to treat food and garden waster mixtures. It ensures that the composting process takes place in an enclosed and safe environment, with accurate temperature control and monitoring. IMPORTANT! This is where our compostable packaging must go to get composted into compost!

On the other find, we find Anaerobic Digestion, also known as AD. Here is where microorganisms break down the food and garden waste in an oxygen environment. However, keep in mind that AD systems do not like packaging, and compostable packaging must be sent to IVS systems.

Please, click here to learn more about In Vessel Composter and Anaerobic Digestion systems.

Products you can compost

Packaging:

  • Bamboo packaging such as plates, bowls and straws
  • Sugarcane Bagasse packaging like containers, plates and bowls
  • Birchwood cutlery: forks, knives and spoons
  • Palm leaf packaging such as plates and bowls
  • Paper containers, trays, cups, etc
  • PLA-Bioplastic packaging like cups and cutlery, among others

Food:

  • Cooked, baked, and otherwise prepared foods
  • Cereal, flour, grains, pasta, and rice
  • Spoiled and expired food
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Dairy products
  • Meat, fish, bones, seafood shells
  • Nuts, seeds, pits, and shells
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves
  • Pet food

Food-soiled Paper (Uncoated):

  • Towels and napkins
  • Paper plates
  • Coffee filters and tea bags
  • Paper bags
  • Uncoated foodservice paper trays and boxes
  • Any other food-soiled paper

Leaf and Yard Waste:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Garden trimmings
  • Plants and flowers
  • Potting soil
  • Branches

5 Reasons why choosing eco-friendly packaging

And now one final question, why choose eco-friendly packaging?

– Reduce your company’s carbon footprint

As a business owner, you have the means to take action by offering sustainable professional packaging to your customers, the end-users, as ultimately it will be them who’ll be disposing of the packaging.

-It is not expensive

Many people think that being eco-responsible is expensive and too costly for their businesses. This is a myth!

-Respect for the environment is increasingly in the minds of customers.

Customers are becoming more consciously aware of the negative impact of plastics and other hazardous materials on the environment.

-Be ahead of the game

It’s no secret that governments are already banning plastic from packaging and our lives. The EU has a directive coming in against marine litter starting in 2022.

-Offer quality to your business

Our collection of eco-friendly packaging includes world-class products from the best manufacturers.

As a business owner, it is more important than ever to reduce the impact of your business on the environment. No matter what industry you are in, green packaging materials are versatile enough to suit any application.

Do you have any more questions? If so, please get in touch at info@packagingenvironmental.co.uk we’ll be more than happy to assist you in your packaging needs!

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