Lorax EPI

At a glance: is compostable packaging all it seems?
by Jennifer Brook at 13:14 in Environmental, Content

Common misconceptions around the terms 'compostable / biodegradable / recyclable'.

Sometimes when packaging says its 'environmentally friendly' or 'green', it's not all it's cracked up to be! We've put together a quick list of things to be aware of when you buy packaging that claims to be 'compostable', 'biodegradable' or 'recyclable', and some different types of packaging you could buy instead.

Things to watch out for:


  • Compostable cups or plates often won't simply degrade by themselves or at home!
  • Often requires special industrial environments, with high heat and pressure.
  • This means, even though the packaging might be 'able to be composted', in practice it often won't be.


  • Often still plastic, meaning it likely won't degrade into natural materials.
  • Can be fossil based (e.g. PLC, polylactic acid plastic) or bio-based (e.g. starch).
  • Can require special industrial facilities to degrade (e.g. PLC), sometimes with certain enzymes or bacteria in a controlled environment.
  • Oxo-degradable plastic is a type of biodegradable plastic. It will break down faster in sunlight, but ultimately still only breaks down into microplastics.


  • Just because it is 'able to be recycled', if there is not enough recycling infrastructure in your area, it won't get recycled.
  • In most places, cardboard can't be recycled if it has food on it (because the packaging needs to be clean to be compacted down and made into other products).

Ways you can improve your consumption of packaging:

  • Buy less. Buy in bulk if you can.
  • Recyclable packaging is still a good option.
  • Reuse your food containers, gift bags, etc.
  • Look out for the 'home compostable' mark on your packaging, meaning you could put it on your compost heap at home and it would degrade into natural materials. One example is the 'TUV Austria OK Compost HOME' label.

If you would like to know more about different types of packaging, compostability labels, green certifications or anything else on this topic, contact one of our experienced consultants at Lorax EPI today, here.
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