HOME COMPOSTABILITY VS INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTABILITY
Written by Frank McDouall, Director, Bonnie Bio
There are 3 dominant internationally recognised compostability certification institutions, namely: TUV, Biodegradable Products Institute and DIN CERTCO; and then there is the Australasian Bioplastics Association.
These first three institutions Quality Assure (QA) that accredited products are compliant to the following standards: DIN EN 13432, ASTM D 6400, ASTM D 6868.
The Australasian Bioplastics Association QA that products conform to AS 4736-2006 and AS 5810-2010.
These accreditations are the foundation standards for a product being accredited compostable. The definition of the word “compostable” as per the Cambridge English Dictionary is “something that is compostable can be used as compost when it decays”.
It is interesting to note that compostable things biodegrade; whereas biodegradable things are not always compostable. When something is classified compostable, it also means that the product will not leach any toxins into the environment whilst it decays into compost.
Bonnie Bio only deals with certified compostable plastic alternatives and our accreditations for our various products can be found either here or here. These accreditations verify that our products are compostable. A product is either compostable or it is not compostable.
COMPOSTABILITY IS FURTHER BROKEN DOWN INTO 2 CATEGORIES:
HOME COMPOSTABLE & INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTABLE.
For a compostable product to break down, it needs access to heat, moisture, oxygen and microbial activity. Both industrial facilities and back yard compost facilities have varying amounts of these elements.
The general difference between industrial / professional composting facilities vs back yard / home composting facilities to achieve the composting process within the specified certified time frame is as follows:
- The larger scale, mechanical breaking down / pre-preparation of compostable product
- Higher temperatures achievable
- The better management of microbiology
This would be why more dense products are labeled “Industrial Compostable” such as a toothbrush. Less dense items, such as our Bonnie Bio bags, would be possible to home compost due to access to the elements listed above, assuming the volume of bags added is not excessive and the bag is manufactured out of correct materials.
Bonnie Bio did not originally submit our bag products for “Home Compostable” accreditation, but there was some confusion around our BPI international certification which states that the bags are not suitable for backyard composting. Mid-way through 2019, we received our accreditation for home compostability from the Australasian Bioplastics Association for all of our bag products, meaning that they are certified as both industrial compostable and back yard compostable.
Bonnie Bio would not submit an item such as a toothbrush either in Bamboo or PLA (Polylactic Acid) for home compostability accreditation as it is unlikely that either item would get the accreditation because it would take too long to break down in a home composting facility within the required time frame. Home composting facilities generally deal with grass cuttings, plant trimmings, light food waste and the like. Anything larger than plant trimmings and grass cuttings such as branches, logs, food waste bones etc. generally get taken off to the municipal dump / industrial composting facility.
For full circle sustainability to take place, we feel that all stakeholders need to accountably contribute towards the sustainability circle, from starting off with being able to provide a product that is made from a material that is renewable / compostable, to its disposal of the product in a responsible manner by the consumer through the establishment of required infrastructure. Unfortunately, the required infrastructure on an adequate basis is not in place for any system at the moment (compostable / biodegradable / recycling) because if it was, we would not be having this discussion and the world would not be in the messy state that it is.
I feel that Bonnie Bio has contributed adequately enough to the sustainability circle through its efforts of invention / manufacture and supply of accredited compostable products. We feel that we cannot be responsible for the complete circle and that each stakeholder within the value chain should contribute their rightful fair share towards the circle of sustainability for the full circle theory to be successful, and for the long-term sustainable livelihood of our planet. In the unfortunate instance that any one of our products end up either in a landfill or as litter, one can be rest assured that when our products do decay, not only will they decay a lot quicker than conventional plastic, but they will return back to natural elements without having left any toxins in the environment.
Another point worth noting is that “plant-based bioplastics such as PLA use about 65% less energy to produce vs conventional plastics, generates 68% fewer greenhouse gases and contains no toxins (as we already know)” – according to an independent analysis commissioned by NatureWorks, the biggest producer of PLA in the world.
My view is that all stakeholders the world over need to shift the disposal mindset to having only 3 bins: compostables, recyclables and one for whatever is left (which will hopefully be very little).
In closing, my final statement on this topic is that one should not hold back progressive development of sustainable products in the quest for sustainable perfection due to the lack of infrastructure. Should we allow the lack of infrastructure to be our limitation, then we should move in the direction of having nothing to dispose, which in my mind would be unfeasible for logical reasons, as we will never consume 100% of everything on a continuous basis.
Should you feel a need to contribute to this topic or have any further questions with regard to this topic, please feel free to get in touch with our Cape Town based office on 071 670 6299 or email@example.com.
WHY BONNIE BIO IS DIFFERENT
When our products break down, they breakdown consistently with other natural materials. At Bonnie Bio, we’re proud to say that our biobased internationally certified compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives have been manufactured to comply with the international standards EN 13432, AS 5810, ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868 and carry the DIN CERTCO, CE, FDA and Seedling logos. We are the only company in South Africa to have international certifications.
To shop our range of certified compostable and biodegradable products, please click here.