Guidelines unpack confusion over compostable plastic

Wednesday, 06 May, 2020

Guidelines unpack confusion over compostable plastic

New compostable packaging guidelines have been published by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) in a united approach to help Australian businesses make informed choices when it comes to compostable packaging.

The guidelines — Considerations for Compostable Packaging — are a practical resource for industry professionals — particularly brand owners, packaging technologists and designers, and food service providers — designed to cut through confusion and help decide when and where to use certified compostable plastic packaging and associated items like cutlery.

Based on the systems and infrastructure currently available, the guidelines identify potential applications and opportunities for certified compostable plastic packaging, with a strong emphasis on packaging that could also facilitate the collection of food waste. These include food caddy liners, fruit and vegetable stickers and ‘closed-loop’ situations such as festivals.

Recommendations are also provided about how to correctly communicate with end consumers, including accurate certification and correct language for labelling and marketing. Statements to avoid are also highlighted, including the misleading terminology and greenwashing claims that are currently contributing to unintentional litter and contamination of the mechanical recycling system.

“With brands facing intense consumer pressure to move away from plastics, coupled with thousands of Australian food outlets turning to takeaway packaging formats for the first time, there’s never been a more important time for businesses to receive accurate and consistent information about compostable packaging,” APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said.

“Compostable plastics currently account for around 0.1% of plastic packaging on market in Australia. Yet we know that it is a market that is growing and one that causes real confusion — for both industry and end consumers.

“We are delighted to launch this new guideline today with the two leading industry associations, to provide a clear and consistent approach to the packaging format going forward,” she said.

ABA President Rowan Williams noted that this has been an excellent opportunity for peak industry bodies to collaborate on guidelines for industry and consumers.

“The collaborative nature of the work in getting this guideline out has been outstanding,” he said.

The guidelines look up and down the value chain, at where the raw material comes from and also where the finished packaging will go to, such as organics recycling, in the future.

“The ABA, as custodian of the only verification scheme for claims of certified compostability to the Australian standards, welcomes the advent of the guidelines and looks forward to continuing collaboration with APCO, AORA and industry stakeholders,” Williams said.

AORA Chair Peter Wadewitz commented, “AORA supports the use of AS4736-certified materials for the source separation of food waste in the home or in commercial settings. It is a suitable alternative to non-recyclable packaging. Compostable coffee cups, capsules and compostable bags can all be successfully utilised through normal organic recycling processes, without concern of contamination.”

Image credit: © Africa

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