BIOPLASTICS
Study casts doubt over home-compostable plastics packaging / Researchers question “effective or environmentally beneficial” waste processing method
Home composting is currently not a viable, effective or environmentally beneficial waste processing method for compostable or biodegradable plastics in the UK, and ‘compostable’ labelling on packaging only serves to confuse consumers, according to a new report.

Researchers at the UK Plastic Waste Innovation Hub at University College London (UCL; www.ucl.ac.uk) said a two-year survey of consumers’ composting habits found they were confused about the meaning of the labels of compostable and biodegradable plastics. And when they did compost packaging labelled ‘home compostable’, the majority of the material did not fully disintegrate in domestic composting systems.

The data presented and analysed by the UCL team were collected over 24 months from November 2019 to November 2021, with 9,701 participants from across the UK completing an attitudes survey, of which 1,648 engaged actively in a home composting experiment, and 902 completed the experiment.

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Of the sampled plastics packaging items tested, 14% were certified ‘industrial compostable’ and 46% had no compostable certification. Of the biodegradable and compostable plastics tested under different home composting conditions, the majority did not fully disintegrate, including 60% of those that were certified ‘home compostable’.

The main applications of compostable plastics currently include food packaging films, protective transportation films, bags, cups, plates and cutlery, biowaste bags, and agricultural films and mulches. For some brand owners, packaging products in compostable packaging highlights their green credentials, but the UCL team warned that the results of their research show the public’s confusion about the meaning of the labels of compostable and biodegradable plastics.

Researchers highlighted another concern: “We know from our data that the compost produced goes into the food chain of UK citizens. Even if some home compostable plastics are shown to fully compost in all UK home composts, it would be wise to assess the environmental impact of these materials, the inks and glues used, before assessing the environmental impact of home compost to properly dispose of biodegradable plastics.

“Our conclusion is that home composting is not at present a viable, effective or environmentally beneficial waste processing method for compostable or biodegradable plastics in the UK.”

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11.11.2022 Plasteurope.com [251514-0]
Published on 11.11.2022

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Date of print: 28.11.2022 15:36:21   (Ref: 621598374)
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