The big green furphy: experts bust degradable plastic bag myth

An interesting article originally published in the SMH, watch the video here  . As we continue to campaign for education about the risk of ‘biodegradable’ bags, and compare them to alternatives such as ‘compostable’ solutions, it’s important to highlight Australia’s strict Compostable Certifications for both home composting and industrial composting. 

Next time you accept a degradable plastic bag at the supermarket, think again – you may be doing little to help the environment and adding dangerous microplastics to rivers and oceans, experts say.

The warning has prompted a Senate committee to call for a public awareness campaign to explain the differences between degradable, biodegradable, compostable and traditional plastic bags – and how they should be disposed of – to educate consumers who mistakenly believe they are doing the right thing.

“Degradable” plastics, commonly used for shopping and rubbish bags, contain additives that make them disintegrate more quickly than traditional plastics. Some people also refer to these products as “biodegradable”.

A Senate committee has called for a campaign to explain how different types of plastic should be disposed of.

While such bags do not remain for decades in the environment as large debris, they can break into smaller and smaller particles until they become microplastics – tiny plastic fragments less than five millimetres in size.

When microplastics enter the marine environment they can choke seabirds, poison wildlife and accumulate up the food chain, turning up in seafood eaten by humans.

A Senate committee last week produced a report into the “toxic tide” of marine plastic pollution, including plastic shopping bags.

The Senate committee has produced a report into the "toxic tide" of marine plastic pollution.Tony Underwood, University of Sydney emeritus professor of experimental ecology, told the inquiry that biodegradable plastic may become less obvious to the naked eye over time, but was an “invisible idiot”.

“[It] simply turns it into smaller forms of plastic more quickly,” he said. “It is not a solution to anything much, unless we are quite happy to shift it all into particle-sized plastics rather than plastic bag-sized plastic.”

University of Queensland academic Kathy Townsend told the committee that consumers were largely confused about different types of bags, and using the terms “degradable” and “biodegradable” plastic inspired more littering because people wrongly believed it would “degrade and go away”.

The rapid disintegration of such plastic also makes it “available to animals much faster than it would be otherwise”, she said.

University of NSW biodiversity expert Mark Browne cited research comparing biodegradable and traditional plastic bags, saying “we put them on a mudflat and looked at the changes in animals and plants that lived among them, and they both caused the same impact”.

The committee said the term “biodegradable” could also refer to “fully biodegradable” or “compostable” plastics generally made from plant materials which return to base organic components when processed by commercial composting facilities.

Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie-Ann Johnson told the inquiry of a large Australian retailer – understood to be Target – that introduced compostable bags but experienced a “customer backlash … because they were not strong enough”.

She said people often wrongly thought compostable containers could break down in backyard compost, when they required commercial composting units, and “there are not enough … units in the country to take them”.

The committee, dominated by Labor and Greens members, noted community confusion over plastic bag types, their disposal and their various environmental effects. It called on the government to encourage states and territories to run targeted education campaigns aiming to change consumer behaviour on plastic use and provide information about alternatives.

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2,300 Tonnes of Food and Garden Organics Recycled in Byron Shire

Originally published in the BYRON BAY BLOG. For more information about this publication or the beautiful Byron Bay area, click here . For more information on the Compost-A-Pak liners used in the program, click here

Congratulations Byron Shire! You have recycled 2,300 tonnes of food and garden organics in six months!


This has reduced Council’s putrescible landfill waste transport and disposal costs by approximately $150,000 since the implementation of the three bin collection service in August. Plus, Byron Shire has on average 30 per cent less kerbside waste going to landfill compared to the previous two-bin system.

Of the total kerbside waste collected each month, an average of 31 per cent is organic materials, 32 per cent recycling and the remaining 37 per cent is landfill waste.

Mayor Simon Richardson thanked residents for being a ‘good sort’.

Overall Byron Shire’s kerbside recycling rate is now 63 per cent, compared with 38 per cent prior to the introduction of our organics service. It’s a great result.

“Particularly impressive is that we have maintained this over the extremely busy Christmas holiday period. But we can do better, let’s aim for a total recycling rate of 70 per cent,” he urged.

Instead of being buried in landfill, our organic materials are processed into certified organic compost at Lismore City council’s composting facility and used by local farmers and growers to improve agricultural soils.

Local farmer and founder of social enterprise, Munch Crunch Organics, Alasdair Smithson, has been using Lismore’s kerbside organics compost for seven or eight years.

“Overall we are happy with the product and it is a good soil improver, hopefully we can do it in the Byron Shire soon too,” he said.

Alasdair thanked the community for contributing their organics because the compost is being used by local farmers and growers.

“It’s really important to us as organic farmers, that we return organic waste back to the soil to build the organic matter and reduce the effects of climate change by doing so,” Mr Smithson said.

Suffolk Park resident, Suzie Morley is happy to have been part of this important environmental initiative and says the three bin system works well for her family of four.

“We compost anyway and have a worm farm, but we were producing more organic waste as a family than the worms could cope with,” Ms Morley said.

“It’s a super easy system and we find we hardly use our red bin.”

Ms Morley said the key to making the system work is to have three bins set up in the kitchen.

We have a cardboard box in the cupboard for all of our recycling and a bin with a liner in it under the kitchen sink for all landfill waste and the caddy on the counter right next to the chopping board for all food scraps so it’s convenient when we are cooking.”

“I think it’s good for training the little ones and now even our four year old Millie knows about composting.”

Contamination update

Organics bin contamination continues to be very low; Council is still keen to remind residents not to use plastic bags, degradable or biodegradable bags in the organics bin.

Place food organics inside a green compostable caddy liner, wrap scraps in newspaper or place directly inside the caddy. All food and garden waste, including things like meat bones, seafood and soiled paper can also go in the organics bin.

Yellow bin recycling results are also good, but the main contaminants are bagged hard plastic recyclables and loose soft plastics.

This has the potential to spoil a whole truckload of recycling and everybody is needed to stay on board and put the correct items into each bin.

If you need a reminder about what items go in each bin, check the A-Z Recycling Guide on the Byron Shire Council website.

As part of the 3 bin collection service, Council continues to conduct weekly visual bin contamination audits which are a great way of providing extra education to our residents about what items can go in each of the bins.

youre_getting_it_sorted_byron_shire_-_2300_tonnes_of_food_and_garden_organics_recycled-recourse_recovery_pie_graph-520x473We’d also like to thank the Byron Shire Echo for supporting this local environmental initiative by introducing a green compostable bag and we encourage anybody else in the same position to jump on board and use compostable instead of plastic bags!

Find out more about our three bin collection service at

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The Next Generation Kitchen Caddy

Kitchen BinAt Source Separation Systems, we believe small actions can change the world, and so we are passionate about inspiring people to live more sustainably.

In Australia, approx. 50% of household waste is organic, and we know a successful organics program can have a significant impact in reducing community landfill rates, and improving sustainability.

Over the last twelve months our team have been busy reviewing best-practice organic kitchen waste collection programs,and understanding the key challenges, with the aim to improve our products. We are really excited to announce that we will be launching a new KITCHEN CADDY in the coming months.

The next generation kitchen caddy builds on the success of our conventional caddy, but is packed with additional features, developed as an outcome of our research talking to customers. In addition, in an industry first, the new technology we are using will revolutionise educational messages, making in much easier for families to divert their kitchen waste correctly.

And what’s more, not only is this caddy designed by our team in Australia to assist Australian families, it is also 100% manufactured in Australia.

Want to know more? Call our team on 1300 739 913 to view one of our first- run production units, straight off the Australian factory floor.

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Corporate Social Responsibility – The Way We Do Business

Source Separation Systems’ mission statement is to deliver world class solutions that inspire individuals to make the world a more sustainable place through waste diversion and recycling.IMG_3190

Corporate Social Responsibility is at the core of our organisation.

Our innovative packaging cartons are an important reflection of our CSR, and how it influences the way we do business, every day.

These unique cartons have been specifically designed by our talented, passionate team. Made from 100% recycled material, the design enables customers to up-cycle the packaging into Recycling Trucks, which can in turn help to engage kids about the importance of recycling.

More generally, as a team we all recognise the obligations of, not only our leaders, but all team members in acting responsibility, ethically and with integrity at all times, through our interactions with each other, customers, partners and importantly, the environment.

To this end we are all committed to;

  • Providing best-practice recycling products, and expert advice, to ensure our customers can achieve their sustainable goals.
  • Maintaining trusted relationships with our customers and community, through excellent service, and by acting with honesty and integrity at all times.
  • Working with all partners to ensure our products are ethically purchased and responsibly produced. We strive for transparency.
  • Minimising Heath and Safety risks, and promoting well being for all.
  • Empowering, supporting and developing each other, and creating an innovative, diverse, flexible and fun team culture.
  • Minimising our environmental impact, and promoting sustainability across the wider community, by sharing stories to inspire others to act.

IMG_3289We strive to be recognised as market leader of corporate social responsibility, and to make a positive difference through both our direct interactions, and through our best practice recycling solutions.

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Looking To A More Sustainable Future

Here at Source Separation Systems we pride ourselves on being the leaders of innovation within our industry!

Today we are pleased to announce our brand new products to help work towards a more sustainable future.

The EnviroSort Recycling Station is a modern triple stream bin designed for busy places.

EnviroSort Recycling Station

Innovative workplace solutions, which you can customise

The EnviroSort Recycling Station is a modern triple stream bin designed for busy public places. The flexible unit is suitable for recycling a range of waste types, and is available in an attractive stainless steel finish, or as a transparent unit for increased security. The vinyl signs marking each aperture can be adjusted so the unit suits your specific waste stream requirements.

The secret to benchmark diversion rates... Make recycling easy!

Educational Signs, Posters & Stickers

Educational solutions to make recycling easy
Effective communication is the key to a successful recycling program. This range of educational signs has been designed by industry experts, and features graphical and written information as well as environmental images to promote sustainability. Recently expanded, the range now includes Polycarb MultiSort Signs, which fix to the industry leading MultiSort Range.


These liners are made of seasonal corn, and are Australian Certified 100% compostable.

Compost-A-Pak Coffee Knock Tube liners. 100% compostable

Helping to make the morning coffee more sustainable
The popular Compost-A-Pak range has expanded to include coffee grounds knock tube liners. These liners are made of seasonal corn, and are Australian Certified 100% compostable. They make it much more convenient to collect and transport precious coffee grounds, which can be composted, bag and all, returning valuable nutrients to the soil to support further agriculture.

The Compost-A-Pak Bin covers come in three key waste streams.

Compost-A-Pak Bin Covers

New cost effective, sustainable Bin Covers
The Compost-A-Pak™ Bin Covers transform standard 240L MGBs into effective triple or dual stream recycling stations for festivals and events. Designed by industry experts in Australian Standard colours with recycling tips, these disposable covers are also Australian certified 100% compostable. At end of life, compost with your food waste – a truly sustainable alternative!

Security at popular, iconic venues is increasingly important, and yet visitors also demand convenience and areas free from litter.

National Park Security Bins

A new industry focus on security

Security at popular iconic venues is increasingly important, and yet visitors also demand convenience, and areas free from litter. This Security Bin has been designed to meet these seemingly conflicting requirements, with its durable transparent panels and adjustable apertures. Similar to the National Park Bin, this unit can be customised, log on and design your own bin.


The Slide & Sort Retrofit Lids have been designed in collaboration with customers who are seeking to improve the waste diversion performance of their existing waste drawers.

Slide & Sort Retrofit Lids

Retrofit lids for existing waste draws

The Slide & Sort Retrofit Lids have been designed in collaboration with customers who are seeking to improve the waste diversion performance of their existing waste drawers. Available in a range of waste streams and configurations, they are proven to reduce the contamination issues often associated with such standard drawers in shared and public areas.



Posted in Compostable Bags, Council, Custom Services, In the public space, In the workplace, Litter, Organic Waste, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment