Compostable vs Degradable… What’s in a name?

First Published in Waste + Water Management, AustraliaCompostapak

While many still consider the terms ‘compostable’, ‘degradable’ and biodegradable’ to be, for all intents,  interchangeable (or even a matter of naming semantics), nothing could be further from the truth – especially when it comes to selecting an appropriate bag for kitchen organics or other green/organic waste streams.

Plastic bags remain one of Australia’s key environmental risk. Industry estimates place the quantity of plastic bags being disposed of in the nation’s landfill at over 36,700 tonnes each year – and that doesn’t include those which are littered. Alarmingly these plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down.

Compost-A-Pak Kitchen Caddy and LinersIn recent years, the wide-spread focus on reducing the use and disposal of traditional plastic bags throughout Australia has resulted in the introduction of an extensive range of alternatives, including compostable, degradable, biodegradable, recycled, recyclable and reusable bags. And although some would argue that any alternative is preferable to using traditional non-degradable plastic bags, when it comes to organics waste processing, it’s clear that not all of these ‘eco-friendly’ alternatives are created equal.

Peter Cruwys, Director with Source Separation Systems, explains:

“Despite the major shift towards organics processing as a key method of reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill, there is still significant confusion about the difference between ‘Compostable’, and ‘Bio-degradable’ bags and liners.”

“While this may seem little more than a matter of naming semantics, using the wrong type of bag or liner can contaminate the entire organics processing stream and render the processed products unsuitable for use in many applications,” he said.

The key difference between ‘compostable’ and ‘degradable’ bags and liners lies within the materials used to manufacture them.

In general, ‘degradable’ bags and liners are still made from plastic: the main difference between these and ‘traditional’ plastic bags is that they use a modified polymer which has been designed to break the molecule into small fragments over time (usually as a result of exThe Pacific Plastic Islandposure to UV). Unfortunately, the result of this process is a larger number of smaller pieces of plastic. Alarmingly these types of small pieces of plastic are a major component of the Pacific ‘Plastic Islands’. Increasingly known as the ‘micro plastics problem’, they are also now showing up in the flesh of ocean fish.

In terms of organics, considering that contamination in organics is measured by item count rather than by weight, such small plastics can spell disaster for an organics processing stream.

‘Compostable’ bags and liners are manufactured using plant-derived starch based polymers that break down completely – returning all nutrients to the soil without leaving any harmful residues.

“Put simply, when it comes to preparing the tenders for a new organics service, Councils need to specify ‘AS4736 certified compostable’ bags and liners – it’s a critical factor in ensuring that the service can generate usable end products that comply with the Australian Standards,” Peter Cruwys added.

We would love to know how  you reduce your plastic bag use. Leave a comment below!

Originally published in Waste + Water Management Australia July 14

Posted in Compostable Bags, Council, In the home, Litter, Organic Waste, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boosting Organic Resource Recovery

First Published in Waste + Water Management, Australia

Organic kitchen waste makes up to 50% of the total domestic household waste stream in Australia. An effective household organics collection and processing service can make a significant difference in diverting waste from landfill.

As with any collection service, ensuring that the organics service is convenient and easy to use is a critical factor in its success. Providing households with Kitchen Caddy’s andCompost-A-Pak Kitchen Caddy and Liners compostable bin liners can make a huge difference in both participation and waste diversion, and importantly, can also help to reduce plastic contamination in the organics stream.

Plastic contamination is a significant issue for both organics and green waste processing, as the waste is often shredded to help speed up the composting process. If plastic bags are present, they are also shredded into numerous individual items of contamination which can be extremely difficult or even impossible to remove from the processed product. The same problems can occur when ‘degradable’ bags enter the stream, with many of them simply breaking down into a larger number of small pieces of plastic contamination.

Providing households with compostable liners is a critical factor in maximising both the use and effectiveness of any kitchen organics service.

Composting made easy with our Kitchen Caddy and compostable liners

Composting made easy with our Kitchen Caddy and compostable liners

The greater majority of people will not place waste (particularly food waste) into an ‘unlined’ waste bin inside their homes – a fact that is borne out by the staggering amount of bin liner products which continue to be sold throughout Australia each year.

Ensuring that the kitchen organics service incorporates a supply of ‘AS4736 Certified compostable’ bin liners not only addresses people’s concerns about hygiene and odours associated with an unlined bin, it also provides the same quick and convenient method of containing and transferring the waste from the smaller bin to the larger kerbside collection bin that most people would be used to, without any of the issues of plastic contamination in the organics stream.

You can purchase your very own Compost-A-Pak Kitchen Caddy and Liners HERE.

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Posted in Compostable Bags, Council, In the home, Organic Waste | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sustainable Life Cycle

First Published in Waste + Water Management, Australia

Compostable liners… What’s the go?

Compostable liners are not only more sustainable in production, but also at end of life. The Market leading Compostable liners, from Compost-A-Pak are manufactured from seasonal corn crops. Third grade ‘non-food grade’ corn is deliberately sourced from international regions with high rainfall to minimise the need for irrigation.

Manufactured using primarily organic plant materials, Compost-A-Pak bags and liners deliver the ideal combination of strength and longevity – ensuring that they are robust enough to prevent splitting or leaking during normal use, while also having a long shelf life to prevent bags on the roll from becoming brittle or unstable when stored appropriately.

Importantly, despite the fact that, for all intents, they appear to have very similar characteristics to a traditional plastic bag, Compost-A-Pak bags and liners have been designed to break down within 45 days in an industrial composting environment (about the same time as a dry leaf) or in your home compost in around 12 months – providing the user with the most practical and eco-friendly solution available.

Composting made easy with our Kitchen Caddy and compostable liners

Composting made easy with our Kitchen Caddy and compostable liners

The key to this performance lies with the specially formulated compostable Bioplastics which require moisture, microbes and a composting environment to break down. They are fully certified to the Australian Home Compostability Standard AS5810:2010 – ‘Biodegradable plastics – Biodegradable plastic suitable for home composting’ and Australian Standard AS4736:2006 – ‘Biodegradable plastics – Biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other microbial treatment’, which means they have been tested to ensure not only can all nutrients be returned to the soil, but there is nothing harmful remaining in the soil after they breakdown. Even the information and logos printed on the bags is done with soy-based inks.

Compost-A-Pak kitchen tidy bags are supplied in rolls or flat-packs which are suitable for mailing out to fulfill phone order requests.Compost-A-Pak range

Compost-A-Pak bags and liners are available in different gauges for effective use in both ventilated and solid-sided kitchen bins, as well as larger bins (up to 1,100 litre capacity). The bright green bags colour and unique design allows Compost-A-Pak bags and liners to be easily differentiated from traditional plastic bags by the collection vehicle’s internal cameras and also during sorting and processing. This allows collection and processing personnel to quickly identify and extract potential contamination prior to it entering the composting cycle.

Posted in Compostable Bags, Council, In the home, In the workplace, Organic Waste | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Bins With A Heritage Touch

Originally published in The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, July 3 2015.

A new wave of street scape waste management is set to sweep the shire with public place recycling bins being installed in the three main town centres of Dorrigo, Bellingen and Urunga in the coming weeks.

The new recycling units are adorned with heritage images of the three towns and surrounds highlighting the region’s history and early industry of the towns.

The modern and appealing National Park Range bin station located in the Bellingen CBD

The National Park Range station located in the Bellingen CBD which were designed by the council

Bellingen Shire Council workers installing their brand new bins.

Bellingen Shire Council workers installing the new National Park Stations







Selection of the bins and the image content were undertaken by Council’s Sustainable Environment & Waste team with the images being sourced from the Bellingen Valley Historical Society.

Bellingen Shire Mayor, Cr Mark Troy is confident that the community will seize the opportunity to play their part in capturing the large proportion of the recyclable materials generated by the neighbouring businesses that would previously have been mixed with the general waste and possibly have gone to landfill.

“Our residents already have a great reputation for being engaged with pressing environmental issues and this is another opportunity for us to show leadership through improved waste management practices”, the Mayor said.

The installation of these bins is a significant step for the Shire reflecting the community’s focus on sustainability and responsible environmental management. This is the first time in the region’s history where recycling has been made available to the public in the main streets.

The chosen features and design complement the Bellingen Shire heritage.

This initiative is aimed at providing services and infrastructure in line with the Shire’s position as a leader in the state for waste diversion away from landfill.

Council secured funding for the new bins from the NSW Environmental Protection Authority grant under the Better Waste and Recycling funding scheme.


Originally published in The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, July 3 2015.

Build Your Own Bin Here  

Read More stories about the National Park Range being used to tell stories about other local communities. 


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The E-Waste Epidemic

E-waste is becoming more proficient in Australia as the technology age is in full swing.

Electronic waste (e-waste) is becoming a key focus for many businesses and councils aiming to further improve their sustainability. When you consider the increasing volumes of e-waste, comparatively low recycling rates and environmental impacts of e-waste, this focus is not surprising.

Australians love our technology, flocking to adapt new technology and go digital faster than most other developed countries. However this passion has resulted in our e-waste
growing at approximately three times the rate of general waste. In fact, according to the Australian Packaging Covenant, there is currently about 16.8 million TVs, Printers, Computers and related accessories disposed of annually, an estimated 106,000 tonnes, of which only 30% is recycled responsibly.

The amount of E-waste discarded is growing each year.

The amount of E-waste recycled is growing each year.

The risk of e-waste in landfill is well understood by those in the industry, although community awareness needs improvement. E-waste when buried in landfill, is toxic, leaching dangerous metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium into the surrounding soil and groundwater. Research has linked such heavy metals to health effects such as tumors, mental health disorders and cancer.The good news is that recycling electronic equipment is relatively easy, with over 90% of most items being able to be recovered for reuse. That’s a significant proportion of recovery, which can play a role in reducing our reliance on mining finite raw materials, and in turn reduce the environmental impact of mining.

As a result of the increasing waste volumes, and poor recovery rates, e-waste is now a focus for many local councils and businesses. Local councils are seeking solutions to improve the recycling rates of e-waste in their communities, through both better facilities and improved education. Local libraries, council chambers and community venues are becoming hubs for the collection of small e-waste items such as batteries, mobile phones and accessories. Businesses, particularly those in the electronic industry, are wanting to lead the environmental response to e-waste, and following Europe’s lead, some leading organisations are looking to implement take-back e-waste stations at the point of sale. In Australia this is currently most predominant with Mobile Muster campaigns in telecommunication stores, however such programs are expanding.

Source Separation Systems E-Waste Bin features a printed top panel which helps users immediately recognise the items being recovered.

The E-Waste Bin features a printed top panel which helps users immediately recognise the items being recovered.

Whilst custom designs are sometimes the solution, Source Separation Systems have launched a product specifically for e-waste. This ‘E-Waste Recycling Station’ features a modern timber veneer design, which supports a stainless steel recycling plate. This recycling plate, available in four designs, features differentiated apertures and coloured graphics which immediately enable the user to identify the waste streams collected.

The station brings together in a single unit, recycling solutions for batteries, phones, printer cartridges and computer accessories. The unit can be also customised, with both new cabinetry to complement the space, or for specific waste items, or recycling messages. Designed for indoor public spaces, the station, with such bright catching visual features, functions as both a recycling bin, and importantly an educational tool to promote increased e-waste recycling.

So now you have had time to count your E-Waste, what is your household’s total number? After some debate, our team have all exceeded 20! 

Posted in Council, Dry Waste, E Waste, In the home | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment