Source: Woolworths Group

South Australia is the first state where Woolworths has introduced compostable fruit and vegetable bags, now available in the fruit and veg departments of all 67 stores across the state.

According to Woolworths, the switch has the potential to divert up to 70 tonnes of plastic waste from landfill each year, with customers now able to compost their Woolworths fruit and vegetable bags in their council-provided green bins for food and garden organics where available, or in their own household DIY compost.

With around 80 per cent of South Australian households having access to council-provided organic bins, compostable alternatives offer an effective way to reduce plastic waste. The compostable bags have been made in South Australia by local manufacturer and Member of the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA), Biobag, and are verified to Australian Standards for commercial (AS4736) and home compostable (AS5810) plastics.

Woolworths South Australia Assistant State Manager, Elisha Moore said: “We’re growing greener across our stores and this represents a big breakthrough in sustainable shopping for our customers here in South Australia.

“We’re thrilled to be the first major supermarket in South Australia to roll out compostable fruit and veg bags in all our stores statewide as we work together with our customers to reduce plastic waste and protect the environment.

“South Australia leads the nation in household access to council-provided composting, so it’s a great place to launch sustainable initiatives like these new bags.

“We’d love to see access to composting across the country increase in line with South Australia to create opportunities to offer green compostable alternatives like this more broadly.”

Deputy Premier of South Australia and Environment Minister, Hon. Susan Close said: “South Australia was the logical choice for Woolworths to launch these certified compostable fruit and vegetable bags in all their stores across the state, because all our metropolitan councils in Adelaide accept food waste in their green bins and so do many regional and country councils.

“No other state in Australia has this level of waste and recycling available to households.”

The new bags are designed to be used as liners in council-provided food scrap ‘kitchen caddies’. Customers can check with their local council to find out whether their kerbside collection services include composting.

Woolworths recently trialled the compostable fruit and vegetable bags in a small number of South Australian stores, receiving positive feedback from customers. More than 75 per cent of those surveyed during the trial said it was important that Woolworths provide compostable bags to customers.

Through its ongoing work to reduce plastic, Woolworths has removed around 800 tonnes of plastic from produce packaging since 2018. The retailer has committed to making 100 per cent of its own brand packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by the end of 2023.

In 2018, Woolworths was the first national supermarket to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags and straws across the country, resulting in more than 9 billion bags and 280 million straws being taken out of circulation to date.

Source: Woolworths Group

 

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA), is pleased to announce that the 2022 ABA Scholarship program for Australia and New Zealand is now open for submissions. The scholarship program is coordinated in partnership with the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), and will enable one eligible candidate the opportunity to undertake a Diploma in Packaging Technology valued at $9,000 and a second person the opportunity to undertake a Certificate in Packaging valued at $7,000.

President of the ABA, Rowan Williams said that ‘The ABA is pleased to once again sponsor the Scholarship program which has been designed to recognise and support deserving and emerging packaging professionals as part of their professional development.’

“We encourage all ABA and AIP Members that are interested in developing their packaging technology skills to apply for these Scholarships following on from the success of last year’s ABA Scholarships and the extremely worthy recipients Karunia Adhiputra and Maria Becerril-Roman,” Mr Williams said.

“The demand for the field of bioplastics continues to surge globally for both certified compostable and fully renewable or biobased bioplastics. These niche products are designed to replace other types of packaging that after contact with food, are uneconomical or difficult to reuse or recycle. Education on these materials, as partly provided as content from these Scholarships, will aid future packaging professionals to make sustainable design choices.” he said.

2021 Diploma in Packaging Technology winner, Karunia Adhiputra AAIP, who is a Packaging Specialist at Nestlé Australia, said that the Diploma in Packaging Technology has helped him to gain a holistic understanding of packaging technology and industry.

“The Diploma in Packaging Technology is a comprehensive course that teaches all concepts of packaging, from technical development, manufacturing, economics and sustainability of packaging materials. The course sets up candidates to achieve a well-rounded understanding of how packaging fits within the supply chain, and important factors that need to be considered to ensure packaging is developed with every aspect of its lifecycle in mind. Undertaking the Diploma has certainly helped me gain a better understanding of developing new packaging materials that are fit for purpose, a focus that is growing in the area of sustainability. I would wholeheartedly encourage all packaging professionals who have not yet completed the Diploma in Packaging Technology to consider applying for the 2022 ABA Scholarship program, it will spark inspiration to bring your packaging to the next level.” Mr Adhiputra said.

2021 Certificate in Packaging winner Maria Becerril-Roman AAIP, who is a Packaging Technologist at Mondelez International, said that winning the second ABA Scholarship was a great personal honour.

“Beyond the opportunity to keep learning and foster my career in packaging science and technology, the scholarship has opened the opportunity to connect with other AIP Members, the wider industry, receive the guidance of my mentors, apply the concepts and skills to every-day work challenges, attain a globally recognised degree, and encourage peers to continue learning and being prepared in this ever-changing space,” Ms Becerril-Roman said.

“I encourage all professionals wanting to deep-dive into the intricacies that sit behind a well-designed pack and how to best tackle the most common challenges in this industry, to apply for the 2022 ABA Scholarship program and reach out to industry and academic connections for your references to participate in this exciting opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of the packaging industry in Australia and the world.” she said.

AIP’s Education Director, Prof. Pierre Pienaar FAIP, CPP, added that that undertaking higher education in Packaging Technology is critical for the ANZ region.

“Whilst many people working in the fields of packaging are well-qualified, as evident in our 2022 Career & Salary Survey, they are not qualified in the science, engineering and/or technology behind packaging,” Prof. Pienaar said.

“We need to see more people in the industry undertaking internationally qualified and recognised degrees such as the Certificate in Packaging  and the Diploma in Packaging Technology. This will go a long way in improving the overall knowledge and skillset in the industry ensuring that we do not have a technical knowledge void within the packaging industry in the next 5-10 years. It is so important that we see more people working in and around packaging advance their technical knowledge,”

“The AIP is offering more academic courses than ever before in the various fields of packaging and I encourage each of you, irrespective of age, to take on this challenge. None of us are too old to learn something new so apply for the 2022 ABA Scholarship program today.” he said.

Visit http://aipack.com.au/australasian-bioplastics-association-aba-scholarship/ to access the entry forms and criteria for each scholarship. Applications close on 8 of April 2022.

Parliament of New South Wales announced the release of the report of Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment, entitled Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastics Reduction) Bill 2021.  The report was tabled with the Clerk of the Parliaments on 12 August 2021.

The report is available on the Parliament of New South Wales website, along with submissions, transcripts of evidence and other inquiry documents.

The report is now with the government for consideration. The government is required to respond to the committee’s recommendation within six months.

Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastic Reduction) Bill 2021

The Australian Government National Plastics Plan published in 2021 undertook to “Phase out plastic packaging products with additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable standards (AS4736-2006, AS5810-2010 and EN13432)(July 2022)’’. This was taken to include so called biodegradable and compostable products. In effect, this inferred equivalence of EN13432 to the Australian Standards.

In discussion with the office of the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, our President with support from the ABA Executive requested that only AS4736 – 2006 and AS5810-2010 should apply as EN13432 is not equivalent to either AS4736-2006 or AS5810-2010, both of which are more stringent with an additional worm toxicity test which was considered absolutely necessary by the working groups that wrote both Australian Standards, to protect Australia’s agricultural and horticultural soils.

We are pleased to advise that the National Plastics Plan has now been revised. Please visit the site http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/plastics-and-packaging/national-plastics-plan where you find the following footnote.

*Please note that since the release of the Plastics Plan the home and industrial compostable standards have been updated to reflect the Australian Standard determined by the Australasian Bioplastics Association verification scheme. The phase out listed on page 5 of the Plastics Plan should now read:

  • Phase out plastic packaging products with additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable standards (AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010) (July 2022)

 

The ABA is working to have the term industrial compostable changed to commercial compostable and the term Australian Bioplastics Association changed to Australasian Bioplastics Association.

The welcomed change protects and enhances the investment in and commitment to the ABA verification programme by members and others in having their products verified to the requirements of AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010, the awarding of a Certificate of Conformance and optional licensed use of the ABA logos. The Australian Government National Plastics Plan makes it clear that only the Australian Standards are relevant for the organics recycling of plastics packaging. The benefits of having a Certificate of Conformance to the requirements of the Australian Standards issued by the ABA are demonstrated by this support in the Australian Government National Plastics Plan.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association Incorporated (ABA) is the peak Industry body for the bioplastics industry in Australia and New Zealand and administers two verification programmes for companies and individuals wishing to verify their claims of conformance to Biodegradable Plastics suitable for commercial and home composting.

Recently, the ABA announced new requirements to eliminate the use of fluorinated chemicals in the products and packaging it verifies for compostability.

Due to growing concerns around fluorinated chemicals, often referred to as perfluorinated or polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFOA & PFAS) as a class of chemicals, the ABA membership and Executive voted to approve a requirement for companies to declare that fluorinated chemicals are not intentionally added to products that is undergoing verification.

Fluorinated chemicals like PFAS are used across a number of industries, and are an effective, FDA-approved “grease-proofing” barrier used on some paper and molded pulp food packaging. Most ABA certified products already do not contain fluorinated chemicals, instead achieving water and grease barrier through the use of compostable biopolymers like PLA, PBAT, PBS, or PHA, as well as compostable waxes.

ABA’s overarching goal is the scalable diversion of organic waste to composting by verifying that products and packaging will successfully break down in professionally managed composting facilities, without harming the quality of finished compost. The certification programme is built on a third party system of independent labs that test products to AS4736 and AS5810 standard specifications, and a robust technical review by an accredited body. The standards include multiple requirements before a product can be claimed to be compostable, including biodegradation testing, disintegration testing, heavy metals limits, compost quality, and toxicity (plant and earthworm) testing. Currently, ABA certifies products and packaging from over 120 companies around the world, and maintains a public database that is keyword searchable for over 220 certified items.

This new restriction on fluorinated chemicals follows the lead of BPI, the US based certifier of compostable packaging. It is clearly the right thing to do, and something we are all committed to,” said ABA President, Rowan Williams. “Compostable products and packaging play a pivotal role in the zero-waste movement, and as more communities across Australasia set up food waste collection programmes, we are working to ensure that ABA’s certification will continue to be a trusted benchmark for compostability.”

The Australasian Bioplastics Association Incorporated (ABA) welcomes the recently released National Plastics Plan.

The ABA is extremely pleased to see the release of the plan which gives clear guidance for the way forward in managing Australia’s plastic waste  in complementary and harmonised directions. The ABA particularly welcomes and supports for the Association, its Members, stakeholders and the public in general, the intention to phase out non compostable plastic packaging products containing additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable Standards.

This phase out does not affect certified compostable products as erroneously reported in some sections of the media.

Fragmentable,oxo-degradable, oxo-biodegradable, landfill biodegradable or enzyme mediated plastics are all synonyms for similar technologies that culminate in fragmentation of the conventional plastics, normally polyethylene, which result in additional accumulation of microplastics in the environment.

The ABA administers a verification program for certified compostable plastics with the inherent property of biodegradability at end of life. These do not contribute to microplastics.

The ABA is the peak Industry body for the bioplastics industry in Australia and New Zealand. The association aspires to work with all levels of Government, municipal authorities, the organics recycling industry, composters, affiliated industry groups, NGOs, brand owners, plastic converters and public stakeholders to further the understanding, education, branding and appropriate use of bioplastics.

Certified compostable bioplastics are those materials with the inherent property of biodegradability in the presence of microorganisms in end of life scenarios such as commercial or home composting. Certification brings comfort to consumers that these products will perform as required by the respective Australian Standards for either ccommercial composting, AS 4736-2006 or home composting, AS 5810-2010.

 

March 17th, 2021

 

The Editor

The Conversation Australia and New Zealand

 

Re: Article published March 9, 2021 entitled “Biodegradable plastic will soon be banned In Australia. That’s a big win for the environment”   and amended to “A type of ‘biodegradable’ plastic will soon be phased out in Australia. That’s a big win for the environment”

 

 

Dear Editor,

We write in response to the above referenced article. Since publication, the Association has received countless inquiries and requests for clarification from concerned stakeholders, members of the public all reflecting community concern that certified compostable products might be banned when these individuals are already using them to great advantage in the diversion of organic waste from landfill to commercial or home composting.

Even though the title states biodegradable, it is implied that certified compostable products, which have the inherent property of biodegradability at end of life, are somehow targeted by the National Plastics Plan, which is quite clearly not the case, in stark contrast to the headline.

We therefore feel the need to clarify some of the points that have been carried in the article and for the purposes of responding we have italicized them.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association Incorporated (ABA) is the peak Industry body for the bioplastics industry in Australia and New Zealand. The two images representing Home Compostable and Compostable “labels” are registered trademarks and logos owned and administered by the ABA as part of its AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010 Standard’s verification program for companies or individuals offering products and wishing to confirm that these products comply with the stringent requirements of either or both of the two Australian Standards.

The ABA is at great pains to have members and non members alike whom offer products to the market with the intended end of life of commercial composting or home composting verify their claims to those Standards through its voluntary verification program. Upon successfully passing all of the requirements for the respective Standards, the ABA registered logos are licensed for use to the successful applicant.

The headline of “Biodegradable plastic will soon be banned In Australia” is fundamentally misleading. The National Plastics Plan 2021 recently released by the Commonwealth lays out a path to “Phase out non compostable plastic packaging products containing additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable Standards”.

The National Plastics Plan does not conclude to ban “biodegradable plastics”. The Plan specifically seeks to “phase out non compostable plastic packaging products containing additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable Standards“. All products verified by the ABA program meet these relevant Standards.

The oxo-degradable, oxo-biodegradable, enzyme mediated, landfill biodegradable products or in other words additive fragmentable technologies, are not certified compostable and do contribute to microplastics in the environment as they fragment during their service life.

Why ‘biodegradable’ isn’t that great

In the case of simply labelling a product “biodegradable” the ABA does not support this in any way because in our view, a simple label of “biodegradable” is an unqualified claim and does not inform the consumer,

  • under what conditions does a product biodegrade if it biodegrades at all
  • what are the byproducts of biodegradation if it biodegrades at all?
  • when does the biodegradation occur and what triggers the biodegradation if it biodegrades at all or?
  • over what timeframe does the biodegradation take place if it biodegrades at all

It is universally acknowledged that biodegradation is a biological process initiated by microorganisms in an aerobic environment, such as composting. It is equally universally accepted that the outcomes of this biological process are carbon dioxide, water, and new biomass.

One way that is also globally accepted to confirm that a product has the inherent property of biodegradability is by proving that product, material or article conforms to Internationally accepted Performance Standards or Standard Specifications.

As no internationally accepted Performance Standard or Standard Specification for biodegradation exists, in the case of Australia and New Zealand the ABA considers the appropriate Performance Standards that ensure the inherent property of biodegradability exists, are Australian Standards 4736-2006 and AS 5810-2010.

These are the relevant composting Standards referred to in the National Plastic Plan.

Biodegradable plastic promises a plastic that breaks down into natural components when it’s no longer wanted for its original purpose. The idea of a plastic that literally disappears once in the ocean, littered on land or in landfill is tantalising — but also (at this stage) a pipe dream.

The ABA does not support the unqualified use of the term biodegradable. The term certified compostable is preferable as it conveys both the intended end of life for the article and confirms that in that end of life, complete biodegradation and ultimate disintegration is going to occur naturally.

Verification to the requirements of Australian Standards AS4736 and AS5810 proves that the inherent property of biodegradation exists through the successful passing of tests required by the Standards, but they are not a solution to littering.

At this stage Standards do not exist for marine biodegradation and when they are in place, will also neither be a solution to nor encourage littering into the environment, whether marine or terrestrial.

Littering is a behavioural issue. Conformance with the requirements of any Standard does not reduce the need for appropriate anti littering practices and education.

A major problem with “biodegradable” plastic is the lack of regulations or standards around how the term should be used. This means it could, and is, being used to refer to all manner of things, many of which aren’t great for the environment.

Certified compostable products, which are inherently biodegradable, are not a problem per se, as certification proves that the property of biodegradation exists. The  point here is about use of the term “biodegradable” as an unqualified claim and that there is a lack of regulations or Standards around how the term should be used.

In addition the ABA does not support and advises its members and non members alike to not use the term “biodegradable” in any way. The ABA believes this unqualified claim should be replaced with the wording certified compostable, in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4736 / 5810.

The making of environmental claims is in fact a regulated space.

The ACCC published a document, which fundamentally deals with plastics bags but nonetheless extends to other articles where such claims may be made and the considerations for use of such claims.

Additionally, the ACCC monitors this space and provides guidance on environmental claims – “Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law” – available here.

The ABA directs members and non-members to these documents for guidance on making environmental claims.

Certainly there are many products marketed in ways which might be considered false, misleading, unqualified and when these come to the attention of the ABA, the ACCC is advised.

The lack of infrastructure to collect and process food waste is not a negative for the use of certified compostable plastics. Where a certified compostable product is used in the source separation or collection and the organics recycler can process them, certified compostable products add value to diversion of organics from landfill.

It is well documented in jurisdictions around the world that certified compostable products enable growth in infrastructure to accept the certified compostable products and increase the diversion of food waste and food soiled products, including bags and packaging, to the organics recycling sector.

Growth in organics recycling is critical for the replenishment of organic carbon into degraded soils, so providing for food security and economic development in that sector.

In appropriate applications, a certified compostable alternative to conventional plastic can help facilitate source separation and hygienic disposal of organics to organic recycling while assisting with the elimination of non-recyclable and non reusable packaging from the landfill stream.

Many plastics labelled biodegradable are actually traditional fossil-fuel plastics that are simply degradable (as all plastic is) or even “oxo-degradable” — where chemical additives make the fossil-fuel plastic fragment into microplastics. The fragments are usually so small they’re invisible to the naked eye, but still exist in our landfills, water ways and soils.

Proponents of fragmentable plastics, plastics with an additive incorporated to accelerate fragmentation under some conditions, claim the product to be biodegradable on the land or in landfill. None meet the requirements of internationally consistent compostability standards, including Australian Standards AS4736 or AS5810. None.

Oxodegradable, oxo-biodegradable. landfill biodegradable or enzyme mediated plastics are all synonyms for similar technologies that culminate in fragmentation of the conventional plastics, normally polyethylene, which result in additional accumulation of microplastics in the environment. It is these products referred to in the National Plastics Plan as “products containing additive fragmentable technology”.

As noted previously, certified compostable plastics are not a solution to the litter problem, a position strongly held by the ABA. Biodegradation in commercial and home composting conditions is a natural process requiring no pre-treatment.

Put simply, certified compostable products compost with the organics (food waste) they contain rather than simply disintegrate or fragment contributing to micorplastic contamination.

Compostable plastics aren’t much better

This section of the article implies that simply because collection services are not in place there is no value in certified compostable products.

The focus here should be on diverting food waste from landfill. With bans on organic waste to landfill there would be a signal to the organics recycling sector to continue the ongoing scaling up of the industry to accommodate more processing capacity for organics. The benefits of organics recycling are well understood and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) has recently published a document that quantifies the economic contribution of the sector.

Certified compostable plastics are endorsed for use in FOGO collections which will increase in number in the future as we move towards more diversion of organics from landfill to a more beneficial end of life. A list of all of AORA’s policies is available here.

The inclusion of certified compostable products in FOGO and other organics recycling processes helps facilitate that main purpose, which is organics recycling. If they can add value through hygienic source separation which ultimately aids in diverting food waste or food soiled articles from landfill, as these food soiled items are not recyclable nor reusable, then this is an example of an appropriate and beneficial use of certified compostable products.

Certified compostable products are designed to be used in solving the most problematic packaging or food waste issue if it is appropriate and makes sense.

Where can my plastic go, (infographic.)

Certified compostable products are suitable for both commercial and home composting. The Technical Committees that devised the test methods and the Standards were made up of a mix of entities that included Federal Government, agencies, academics, and industry. A full list of the Members of the respective Technical Committees is carried within each of the Standards.

Consideration was given to the conditions that exist in both commercial and home composting environments and were decided upon as resembling real world conditions and conducted under laboratory conditions necessary for reproducibility and accurate recording of performance.

Conditions in commercial composting vary from process to process however the purpose of achieving high temperatures as prescribed by the compost Standard AS 4454 of greater than 55 degrees C and above is not so that certified compostable products can biodegrade but to pasteurise the composting organic matter in order to sterilize harmful pathogens and kill weed seeds and effectively make the material safe for land application as a compost. This is a natural process driven by thermophilic bacteria naturally found in the organic matter.

The conditions in both commercial and home composting are conditions precedent to the advent of compostable plastics and are industry best practice for the safe production of organic outputs. Home composting of certified home compostable plastics in a well managed situation occurs perfectly well at ambient temperatures.

More focus should be placed on the lack of clear direction regarding mandatory organics diversion and source separation of organic wastes which does not exist sufficiently today and question why are we not banning organics from landfill.

Commercial composting and other organics recycling facilities do exist. The number of facilities is growing globally particularly in countries where organics to landfill is a prohibited practice. For example, Victoria’s new Recycling policy seeks to double the processing of organic waste in the next decade and certified compostable products have a part to play in that objective, where appropriate.

Australians perhaps do not appreciate the actual value of recycled organics that should be heading back to our degraded soils as composts, soil conditioner and mulches, rather than pouring into landfills where they generate methane under anaerobic conditions and escapes as a powerful greenhouse gas.

Certified compostable plastics can and do make sense and amongst other things  raise consumer awareness of source separation, clean feedstock for processors, cleaner bins, the reduction of organic waste to landfill and the great value of compost for soils.

We would like to continue the discussion on these topics and look forward to your comments in due course.

Yours sincerely

 

Rowan Williams                                                                   Warwick Hall

President                                                                                  Vice President

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Pawarun

 

Report predicts bioplastics growth

With multiple environmental benefits, bioplastics could be vital in helping solve the world’s plastic problem.

About eight million pieces of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans each day, representing a global-scale pollution problem that is not going anywhere without serious intervention.

Bioplastics — plastics produced from biomass feedstocks — could help solve the world’s plastics problem but are struggling to wrestle market share away from conventional plastics. Bioplastics such as polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoates and polybutyl succinate are biodegradable and can have similar, if not identical, functionalities to their fossil-based counterparts. So why aren’t they being widely adopted? An IDTechEx report explores the factors helping and hindering the adoption of bioplastics.

Cost of production

The IDTechEx report — ‘Bioplastics 2020–2025’ — identifies several barriers to more widespread adoption of bioplastics, the major issue being that they are still more expensive to produce than petrochemically derived plastics. Despite a majority of consumers saying they want brands that are sustainable, few are actually willing to pay extra for it, with willingness to pay falling sharply for products with a Green Premium over 5%.

Oil prices fell in 2014 and have stayed low since then, making it even harder for bioplastics to compete on price. As a finite resource, oil prices cannot remain this low forever, but until prices rise bioplastics producers will have to work hard to cut production costs.

The challenge of upscaling

Despite demonstrating proof of concepts in an academic setting, the transition to industrial-scale production is far from straightforward and many companies are reported to have gone bankrupt trying to make the jump. A conservative approach to production methods does not work well with the complexity of high-volume fermentation. Furthermore, there is a lack of capital investment from venture capitalists and governments to help academic innovators and early-stage startups expand production.

Policy change as a facilitator

Despite the barriers to the widespread adoption of bioplastics, governments are increasingly introducing policy changes to help overcome the challenges detailed above. In 2018 the EU updated its Bioeconomy Strategy, making funding available for circular economy projects, and in 2019 the San Francisco Bay Area introduced a range of restrictions on single-use plastics.

Bioplastics companies are also increasingly employing innovative technical approaches to reduce costs, including the use of synthetic biology.

The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) is the peak industry body for manufacturers, converters and distributors of bioplastic products and materials throughout Australia and New Zealand. Dedicated to promoting plastics that are biodegradable, compostable and based on renewable resources, the ABA administers a voluntary verification scheme for biodegradable plastics.

“The growth of the market for sustainable resins derived from renewable resources is driven by recognition that fossil fuel resources are finite and will one day run out,” the ABA said.

“Change is required and this is recognised by business and governments around the world who are encouraging recycling, composting of organic waste, and use of sustainable and renewable materials.”

First posted on Sustainability Matters on 02/04/20 Read more here

 

 

If you take one of Ellen Burns’ energy bars, eat it and throw the wrapper in the compost bin, 13 weeks later you will find nothing but dirt.

As Australia stares down a recycling crisis that threatens the viability of a multi-billion dollar industry and potentially thousands of jobs, some small businesses like Ms Burns’ have scrambled to find new types of packaging that have no need for a yellow kerbside bin.

The Ballarat-based entrepreneur said her business is one of only three in Australia that uses home-compostable packaging, which is plant-based and imported from the United Kingdom. “When I started running my own business it kind of seemed contradictory because I was creating all this plastic waste and putting that out into the world,” Ms Burns said.

“It’s a bit more noticeable when you have literally boxes of plastic pouches rather than as a consumer you might only be using one a day or a couple of plastic packages a day.”

While there has been considerable improvement to public awareness of Australia’s waste woes, home-compostable packaging is only one step in a much longer journey towards fixing the recycling industry’s systematic flaws.

How does home-compostable packaging work?

The bioplastic packaging that Ellen Burns uses is accredited by the Australasian Bioplastics Association [ABA] and made from cellulose derived from plants like eucalyptus and sugarcane. Member of the ABA’s Technical Committee, Warwick Hall, said testing of compostable packaging is undertaken in conjunction with German firm DIN CERTCO to ensure there are no toxic residues.

“The product breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and carbon biomass just the same as a tomato or an orange,” he said.

But Mr Hall said the wrapping may not biodegrade properly alongside other forms of general waste and that the ideal conditions of a compost bin are needed. “It needs to be composted because landfill conditions vary so much that a material may or may not biodegrade under those conditions.

“Others are dry landfills where no oxygen can get in there and nothing biodegrades or it takes an awfully long time.”

“We’ve all read reports about landfill being dug up and people finding vegetable matter and old newspapers,” he said.

Is home-compostable packaging economically viable?

Over the past three years Ellen Burns has spent her entire life savings on setting up her business and establishing the new compostable packaging. “Between plastic and this, it’s probably maybe 10 times more expensive,” she said. “I understand why the bigger businesses don’t do it, because for them to switch all their products over it would actually be a huge amount of money.” Ms Burns primarily stocks cafes and health food stores and said there is a greater appetite for environmentally friendly products among her target market.


“This was my first big order of custom packaging, so for me it always going to be a huge step up anyway,” she said.

“So I thought it was worth investing in what my beliefs are and what my brand stands for, rather than try to minimise the cost.”

But Ms Burns said due to the relatively small size of her business and the lower cost of purchasing packaging in bulk orders, the price increase passed on to consumers is minimal. “In terms of packaging per wrapper, you’re talking probably 10 to 15 cents difference per bar.”

 

PHOTO: Photos of Ellen Burns’ packaging taken five weeks after they were placed in a compost bin. (Supplied: Ellen Burns)

Soft plastic problems present an opportunity for home compost

Unless placed in dedicated recycling bins found at most supermarkets, traditional plastic food packaging presents a particular problem, with only a handful of regional councils able to process them from kerbside recycling bins.

Bioplastics are derived from renewable substances, but can include a broad range of products such as biodegradable starch blends, polyesters or regenerable cellulose — each with varying environmental impacts.The 2016-17 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey stated that the amount of biodegradable plastic being composted is unknown but estimated that less than 100 tonnes was undertaken nationally. That is compared to 3,513,100 tonnes of plastic consumed in the same year, of which 11.8 per cent was recycled.

A June 2018 report released by the Senate Environment and Communications Reference Committee described Australia’s recycling system as being in ‘grave danger’ due to China’s ban on the import of some recyclables, along with underinvestment in the domestic industry. The report points to the “enormity of problems created by plastics” with many municipal recycling systems unable to sort food wrappers from other harder plastics including bottles and containers.

What does the future hold for bioplastics?

In April the Federal and State Governments agreed that all Australian packaging should be recyclable, combustible or compostable by 2025 — a decision Warwick Hall said provides momentum to the burgeoning bioplastics industry.

 

“Our conventional thinking for recycling is, we take it away and we melt or we crush it up and generally just physically recycle it into another form,” he said.

“In this case it’s the same concept, but just organic rather than conventional recycling … it’s not intended to replace conventional recycling, it’s another means.”

While there are industrial composting options available already, Mr Hall said the ultimate success of compostable packaging will depend on the willingness of consumers to change their waste and recycling habits.

“Petrochemical plastics are pumped out by the hundreds of thousands of tonnes and that gives you efficiencies whereas bioplastics are made in smaller quantities and therefore you don’t get those same efficiencies,” he said.

“We wouldn’t think that all packaging will become compostable and certainly not the majority of packaging will become compostable but it is an option available.”

PHOTO: Composting has become more frequently used among Australian households but whether this will extend to food packaging remains to be seen. (Flickr: Nic McFee)

First posted on ABC News on 27/11/18 Read more here