Confectionery Corner

What you need to know about biodegradable packaging

When considering Biodegradable packaging you need to consider a number of factors:

  • Does the product biodegrade in a HOME compost environment?
  • Does the product biodegrade in a COMMERCIAL compost facility?
  • Is the product Certified Biodegradable?
  • Is every component of the product biodegradable?

Very few biodegradable films or plastic look alike can be home composted. The person who has the finished product would have to take the finished product to a commercial composting facility. Once there, the product will be composted over a 12 weeks period, where the balance of microbes, moisture and warmth is regulated to ensure the compostable packaging can be included in food waste recycling.

At this point in time, Australia has very few commercial composting facilities in operation for these types of films or plastics, rendering it extremely impractical to compost this type of packaging. A product that is biodegradable in a commercial composting facility may take hundreds of years to break down in a non-commercial environment.

Trade collections of compostable packaging are not currently available and there are very few commercial composting facilities. If the commercially compostable product ends up in curb side recycling (home recycling) chances are it will not make it to a commercial composting facility and will not be able to be composted. Further if a product which makes claim to be compostable ends up in your home compost bin it can actually do more harm than good. When treated as compost which has not biodegraded.

For a certified biodegradable product to be commercially composted the companies that sort rubbish into categories would need to know what the packaging is? This means it will need to have the certified logo printed on the package. To make this claim the company making the claim will need to have certification and permission to use the certification logo the cost of which is approx. $25,000. If someone is making the claim please make sure they have certification to use the identifying logos because if the package is not identifiable it will actually cause more harm than good. It is the responsibility of the packer of the product to get this certification as they will be printing on the bag and adhering stickers and changing the nature of the packaging. The certification they get, needs to cover the film, the label, the adhesive on the label and the printing inks either used in the design or the ingredients and allergen statements. (This will be discussed more below).

Recyclers do not want biodegradable products in their waste stream due to wearing down of products produced. There is potential for biodegradable products to detrimentally affect products made from recyclable materials.

Another issue to consider when biodegradable packaging is claimed: Most Gloss adhesive labels are not fully biodegradable and when they are adhered to biodegradable packaging, they may render the package non compostable. Furthermore, very few printing inks are certified biodegradable another obstacle to claiming a package is biodegradable.

Marine biodegradation must also be considered. When making a claim that packaging is biodegradable you must also consider is it biodegradable in the ocean. Most packaging claiming to be compostable in fact is not suitable for marine degradation.

So Why are we telling you about this?

  1. “Biodegradable” and “compostable” are terms being used irresponsibly as a marketing tool.
  2. Customers have been asking Confectionery Corner for guidance on this issue.
  3. Confectionery Corner has investigated numerous substrates that could be classified as biodegradable / compostable but there are numerous restrictions on their use at this point in time due to many of the reasons mentioned above.
  4. Confectionery Corner does have film that is Certified Home Compostable and approved for marine biodegradation. However, the issue of label adhesive and printing inks has not been solved.
  5. Beware of companies making broad claims, and don’t be one of them, as you may be breaching section 18 of the Australian consumer law especially if the package does not comply and does not have the appropriate certification The ACL section 18(1) (formerly TPA s52(1)) provides that 'A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.' ... Although section 18 appears in the Australian Consumer Law, the section is not limited to consumer transactions or dealings.
  6. If you are wanting to be more environmentally friendly please make sure that you are fully complying and understanding of the claims you are making as the results of not complying can be more damaging to the environment than any alternatives.

Some additional information

Recyclable

Multinationals have been adopting 2025 as the year that all packaging used is recyclable. Coles and Woolworths have brought this date forward through their alliance with Red Cycle. New recyclers appear to be coming on stream to take up volume that Red Cycle is not handling.

Currently Red Cycle have the ability to recycle most flexible products. Red Cycle claim to recycle most products but there is a preference for single polymer (the material we use in our packaging) structures to enable consistent recycled product and easier processing. We point out that the film used by Confectionery Corner in their confectionery bags is fully recyclable. As it is used for direct food contact packaging, we are not able to use recycled materials at this point in time.

About REDcycle

RED Group, a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation, has developed and implemented the REDcycle Program; a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic.

RED Group has teamed up with Coles, Woolworths and some of Australia’s most-loved brands to make it easy for you to keep your plastic bags and soft plastic packaging out of landfill.

As of 2018, a partnership with Downer and Close the Loop means that soft plastic is now also a component of a new municipal road infrastructure.

The REDcycle Program is true product stewardship model where manufacturers, retailers and consumers are sharing responsibility in creating a sustainable future.

In Summary

Confectionery Corner hopes this article has been informative and educational to you. We encourage customers to use recyclable options or to spend a bit more on multi-use packaging.

As mentioned, Confectionery Corner does have flexible packaging (a bag) that is Home Compostable and suitable for marine biodegradation. However, the labels and inks are not biodegradable so we cannot claim the product is biodegradable at this time. When someone claims biodegradability please check all these factors, as you don’t want to be responsible for claiming something that is not true to your customers.

Confectionery Corner will continue to investigate biodegradable options but at this point in time unless a bag, along with stickers, adhesives and printing inks can be home composted, we believe we would be doing more harm than good. This is where we stand.

If you have any further questions or inquiries please contact Alan Smithson at Confectionery Corner 03-9588 0042