How do I choose?

How do I choose?
15 Sep 2019
Category Eco planning
Following the advice of the young activist Greta Thunberg, the most urgent step we all should take to face the environmental challenges of our times is to educate ourselves on what it is the climate emergency and on what we can do to reduce our environmental footprint.

In this light Busy Bee Eco Party would like to help the eco-conscious consumers understanding the ins, outs, pros, and cons of degardable, compostable and biodegradable products. 

In the never-ending search for green products and solutions, few words come up often: degradable, compostable and biodegradable. But what do they mean? Is one better than the other? What does an eco-conscious consumer need to know?

Degradable products are made of plastic with other added chemicals (including heavy metals) that cause the plastic to break down and disintegrate over time when exposed to sunlight and heat. If these degradable products are dispersed, they become a problem as they break down into hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic that can be easily consumed by wildlife. They are almost impossible to be removed from the environment and the food chain.

Biodegradable products are products that break down under natural conditions. Hence,  biodegradable means that a product is broken down by biological processes (bacteria, fungi) back into carbon dioxide, water and biomass.

The truth is that many products are labelled as biodegradable, even if they will only break down in specific environmental conditions, long timeframes and often by releasing harmful substances if they end up in landfills. Often, information on what elements will be released is not availiable to consumers nor information on how long it takes for the product to biodegrade. Some products might take months, while others might take years. Bioplastics, for example, can biodegrade efficiently when properly treated in commercial composting facilities not when it ends up in the waterways or landfill.

Compostable products are usually made of natural plant materials and do not release toxic substances when properly treated. Compostable products biologically decompose in a commercial composting facility through microbial activity to form compost. Industrial composting facilities treat the products with high temperatures (over 55 degrees Celsius - much higher than in a backyard compost bin) and optimal humidity to accellerate material breakdown. This will become organic rich matter, highly beneficial for agriculture. In other words composting is basically human-controlled biodegration.

In order to be classified as compostable a product must meet the Australian Standard  set by the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA). When packaging is classified as compostable, and has undergone stringent testing set by the ABA, it is accredited the Australian Standard for compostability AS 4736-2006.

The ‘seedling logo’ certification system throughout Australia and New Zealand help consumers identify and differentiate materials as biodegradable or compostable.

It is very important to keep in mind, while shopping, that when a company sells a compostable product it means that it can be turned into compost only if processed in an industrial composting facility. As mentioned above, compostable products do not always biodegrade naturally in a landfill without releasing harmful gases. In order to biodegrade they have to be placed in the right environmental human-controlled conditions.

However, in Australia, there are currently only a few of these commercial composting facilities and most are not located close to cities. This lack of services means that not all compostable products will go to these facilities.

Some local councils have put in place appropriate procedures for food waste and compostable products to be collected and composted (see city of Sydney trial at Currently, South Australia is the only state that allows for kerbside collection of compostable products and food scraps.  A few councils in Northern NSW (Ballina and Lismore) currently have the same facilities.

Home compostable products are mostly plant-based and can be placed in a home compost bin, where they will decompose and become organic rich matter within a short period of time. There is a significant difference between compostable and home compostable products and this difference can have a serious effect on our environment; only home-compostable products can biodegrade naturally without the need of an industrial process.

The Australian Standard set by ABA for home compostable products is AS 5810-2010 and carry this AGBA home composting logo.

The Home Composting logo ensures that these products and materials are easily recognised, and food waste or organic waste contained in these certified products can be easily separated and diverted from landfill.

Why you should choose home compostable products:

Until Australia’s recycling facilities for compostable products improve, using compostable products often means that these products will end up in landfill facilities.

Using home compostable products allows us consumers to compost the packaging in our homes, along with fruit and vegetable scraps or place it in the green waste bin for composting.  This is an environmentally friendly solution available today, is sustainable (for every tree cut down another one is planted) and their lighter weight saves costs on transport and energy costs in distribution.

This is why Busy Bee Eco Party has carefully selected exclusively home-compostable products. We made a commitment to protect the environment and we would like to offer eco-conscious consumers the best choice for our environment.

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