Buying a compostable product makes you feel good … but what does it actually mean, and what should you do with it after use? Here are a few important points that you need to know.
Most of us are familiar with the word ‘compostable’. It’s generally acknowledged as something that’s pretty good for the earth and is used frequently in conjunction with environmentally friendly products.
Opting to use compostable items in your everyday life is a great choice on so many levels. However, it’s not enough to simply buy something that’s compostable; you also need to know what it’s made of and how to properly dispose of it. A product’s ability to live up to its promised eco-friendly properties relies on you and what you do with it after use. Here’s a few things you should know about compostable items:
- They are made exclusively from organic matter.
The term compostable refers to items that are made from entirely plant-based materials (with no added plastics). Think paper towels, fruit and vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds and even bread scraps. These will all break down quickly and easily into natural elements.
- They must be disposed of in a composting environment.
This is the tricky bit; compostable products need a proper nutrient balance, along with oxygen, moisture and warmth in order to completely break down. This means you’ll need to dispose of them in a home composting pile in the backyard, a green organics bin or in an industrial composting facility. Disposing of something that’s compostable into regular garbage will condemn it as rubbish and deny all its good eco-qualities.
- They leave no residue behind.
This is the point of difference between a product that’s ‘biodegradable’ and one that’s ‘compostable’. A compostable item will break down completely into the earth and leave no visible trace. This journey from ‘item’ to ‘earth’ usually takes around 90 days in an industrial composting facility. Once it’s gone, there will be no toxic residue left behind.
By taking the time to understand your compostable item and treating it the way it should be treated, you’ll be benefiting the environment in a multitude of ways. Not only will you be reducing unnecessary landfill, but once broken down, compostable products turn into nutrient-rich garden fertiliser.
How can I be sure an item is compostable?
There’s only one fail-safe way to tell if your product or packaging is compostable: look for the industry certification logo, such as the Australian Standard AS4736. This confirms it has undergone the proper trials and tests to verify it can safely break down quickly, harmlessly and completely back to the earth.