Compostable vs Biodegradable packaging
The rapidly changing world of packaging is intimidating for both businesses and consumers. No one wants to do the wrong thing and cause more harm than good. We have been on a journey to find the best path to create products that solve problems and not create them.
So what’s the difference between compostable and biodegradable packaging?
Biodegradable packaging is made from petroleum like regular plastic but has an organic additive that enables it to break down very easily when exposed to sunlight and moisture. The problem is that it will only break down to smaller pieces of plastic or microplastics.
Compostable packaging breaks down into carbon and water leaving no toxins behind. It’s made mostly from plants. We will dive into the ‘mostly’ part of that sentence a little later.
What’s the difference between home compostable and industrial compostable?
Industrial compostable packaging requires a compost environment with temperatures of about 60 degrees celsius to break down. If it does not reach these temperatures then it can take years or even decades to completely break down.
Home compostable packaging can break down in your compost pile at home in a matter of weeks. All it requires is a compost pile at ambient temperature to break down into carbon and water.
So what happens when compostable packaging ends up in landfill?
Home compostable packaging will still break down but it could take as long as a year in landfill. Industrial compostable products will take many years, as previously mentioned, to break down in landfill. Compostable packaging will break down in water, carbon dioxide and an extremely small amount of methane when in landfill.
So what is the best solution?
We need to work towards a world where all packaging is made from food waste or feed stocks that sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide so that they are a carbon negative material. A good example of this is our friends, Uluu, who are making a biopolymer from seaweed. Seaweed can sequester carbon dioxide 35 times faster than a tree so by using packaging made from seaweed we could actually take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!
Packaging made from plants that still require intensive agriculture like cornstarch or sugarcane aren’t the best solution. Many resources are used to produce the plants and they don’t sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide.
What are we doing at great wrap?
We are working towards having all of our products made from food waste. If food waste were a country then it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. We are going to be soon building a facility that will divert 50,000 tonnes of food waste from landfill annually.
We are converting that waste into a biopolymer that is not only home compostable but also marine biodegradable. Even if our products go to landfill they will release the tiniest amount of methane and carbon dioxide compared to if it were raw food waste. This process will take extremely large amounts of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere annually.
So what should you use?
Start with reusable products and if there is not a good solution then consider a home compostable alternative.. We started Great Wrap because there were no good alternatives to plastic stretch wrap.
Always avoid biodegradable products and only use industrial compostable packaging if your local council offers a green waste bin.
Join 40% of Australians and compost at home. That way you can dispose of your home compostable packaging and add value to your garden. Try and find products that are made from seaweed, food waste or other plant based solutions that don’t require intensive agriculture like cornstarch or sugarcane.