The Puzzle of Compostable Packaging

Posted on 18 April 2024

After Dinner: Where Does the Packaging Go?

You’ve just finished a delicious takeaway meal. Now, you’re left with the packaging. It says it’s compostable, but what does that really mean? Can you throw it in the garden, the recycling bin, or should it go with your food scraps?

Inside BioPak’s World

Let’s take a closer look at BioPak. They’re a big company that makes these compostable products. They use leftovers from sugar cane and corn to make things like bowls, trays, and cups. They say these items can break down and go back to nature.

But, turning these items into compost isn’t as simple as it might seem. Sam Walker from BioPak tells us that a good compost needs care. It’s not just a pile of leaves; it needs air and mixing.

What Researchers Found

Danielle Purkiss from University College London looked into how well these compostable items break down at home. Turns out, they often don’t break down like they’re supposed to.

The Bin Confusion

So, if you have compostable packaging, where should it go? Well, it shouldn’t be thrown in with your regular recycling because it’s different from other plastics and could mess up the recycling process. If your area collects food waste, that’s a good place for it. But there’s a catch: sometimes, even the people who collect food waste get confused and can’t tell it apart from normal plastic.

Why Some Shops Stopped Using Compostable Packaging

Because of all these issues, some stores, like Abel and Cole, decided to stop using compostable packaging for now. They found out that there wasn’t a good way to make sure the packaging would actually be composted like it’s supposed to be.

Keep Trying, Say the Makers

But companies like BioPak believe these compostable items are still a good idea, especially in places like fast-food restaurants where everything gets thrown away together. They say the goal is to help turn the leftover food into compost, even if the cup or plate it came in doesn’t compost well.

What Should You Do?

If you’re sure something is compostable and your area has food waste collection, put it there. If not, it’s better to put it in the trash. Just make sure not to mix it with your recycling.

It’s a tricky situation. We’re trying to do better for the planet by using compostable packaging, but it’s not as straightforward as we hoped. We need better ways to handle and process these materials to really make a difference.

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