APCO, in partnership with ABA and AORA, have recently published National Compostable Packaging Strategya comprehensive new approach to how Australia can develop an environmentally sustainable system for compostable packaging.

Launched on 17th June at the AORA annual conference, the strategy was developed to provide a clear and consistent national approach for compostable packaging in Australia, including direction on how and where it should be used, how it can support the recovery of food waste, and how to ensure compostable packaging is recovered at end-of-life and has beneficial end uses.

Download the National Compostable Packaging Strategy 

Australian brands are reacting to the Australian Government’s 2025 targets to make all packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable, causing interest around certified compostable packaging solutions to skyrocket and resulting in a strong need to ensure that organics recycling infrastructure, such as composting is also prepared well in advance. BASF has been researching certified compostable and therefore biodegradable polymers to support the development of certified compostable packaging solutions for more than a quarter of a century.

Certified compostable packaging currently only accounts for around 0.1% of plastic packaging on the market in Australia. According to the Australian Organics Recycling Association’s March 2020 Australian Organics Recycling Industry Report, the industry continues to grow by 3.4% each year compared to Australia’s average population growth rate across the same time of 1.4%, recently revealed in the which undertook a macro-economic analysis of the Industry.

In addition, the total estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) savings from organics recycling in Australia in 2018-19 is approximately 3.8 million tonnes of CO2-e. These GHG savings are considered equivalent to 5.7 million trees that would have to be planted to absorb the same amount of CO2 or the GHG emissions that 876,663 cars would produce in a year.

A Supporter Member of the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and a founding Member and Platinum Plus Sponsor of the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), the peak industry body for the recycled organics industry, BASF has a long history in Australia with certified compostable solutions enabling source separation of food or other organic waste and diverting this valuable resource from landfill. Some of these solutions can be commonly used in certified compostable packaging applications, where the packaging is too contaminated with organic waste to economically recycle conventionally and is also not reusable, as a result of this food soiling. Rowan Williams, Regional Market Development Manager- Biopolymers at BASF says that while solutions exist, having the correct infrastructure available for collection and processing of this organic waste and the certified compostable packaging is critical in responding to the increasing amounts of source-separated food waste.

“We’re seeing some councils around Australia commit to introducing Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) kerbside collection, and more are considering every day, but some are still projecting this out to 2030 – it makes it difficult to implement widespread certified compostable packaging for kerbside collection as we then rely on consumers to have home composting systems. As a consequence, food soiled packaging is not recycled and food waste generally ends up in landfill. We have to do better than this.

“This provides the critical infrastructure our industry needs – at the moment when we look at wide-spread solutions it’s often a question as to what will come first, the compostable packaging so we build the demand, or the infrastructure so it ends up correctly source separated. There is some great work happening in this space, and we have been working closely with the relevant Associations, and government stakeholders, but there is still plenty more to be done,” explained Williams.

Williams, who is also the President of the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) – the peak Industry body for the appropriate use of bioplastics industry in ANZ believes the key to the success of certified compostable products is using it in the most appropriate application coupled with consumer and stakeholder education. He explains that oxo-degradable, biodegradable and certified compostable are not the same thing.

“Unless products intended for organics recycling at end of life are certified to the requirements of the Australian Standards either AS 4736 for commercial composting or AS 5810 for home composting, then there is no certainty that these products will perform appropriately in that end of life and they are not considered suitable for use in organics recycling. The ABA, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) have come together to develop new Australian guidelines to help businesses make better choices about using certified compostable packaging appropriately,” Williams adds.

In preparation for the arrival of the new guidelines, BASF Australia completed the verification of various grades of its compostable and partly biobased bioplastic, ecovio®, confirming these grades meet all of the requirements of the Australian Standards, AS 4736 and AS 5810.

Through the industry’s commitment to working with stakeholders, there’s a lot of exciting potential in this space.

Why choose ecovio®?

The main application areas for ecovio® are certified compostable films such as organic waste bags, multiple use fruit and vegetable bags, (first for shopping, then for organic waste) and agricultural mulch films. Furthermore, certified compostable packaging solutions such as paper-coating and injection moulded products can be produced with ecovio®, all of which assist in diverting food soiled packaging and organic waste from landfill to organics recycling.

Fruit and vegetable bags

Fruit and vegetable bags made of ecovio® are more than simple carrier bags: They can be used to buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket in a safe and hygienic way, to carry them home and also they can extend the shelf life of some fruit and vegetables in the fridge. Re-used as organic waste bags they can improve the collection and recovery of organic food waste.

Agricultural mulch film

For agricultural use, BASF offers the certified soil biodegradable ecovio® M 2351 for mulch films. Mulch films made of ecovio® M 2351 can remain in the soil and ploughed in after mechanical harvest: Naturally occurring soil microbes like bacteria or fungi recognize the structure of the film as food they can metabolize.

Paper coating applications

The certified compostable and mostly biobased polymer has a lot of advantages. In extrusion coating, ecovio® PS offers a low coating thickness at high coating rates and process stability. The excellent adhesion of ecovio® PS to many types of paper and paperboard, its temperature stability up to 100 °C and sealing capacity comparable to PE make it ideally suited for the production of paper- and paperboard based packaging – whether in cups for hot or cold drinks, fast food or other food packaging.

ecovio® in compostable multilayer films

In combination with other BASF technologies, certified compostable multilayer films can be produced with ecovio®. Due to its good barrier properties, these films are suited for a wide range of food packaging, and at the same time offer an alternative end-of-life option.