How to Recycle our Home Compostable bags – Plants v Plastic

Garden Recycling

How to Recycle our Home Compostable Bags – Summary

If you receive your chocolates in a clear bag with a ‘Home compostable’ sticker here’s the short summary of how to recycle it :-

  • Your bag can be put in your home Compost heap and will degrade and completely disappear in a few weeks. Many local authorities have a subsidised composter purchase scheme. If you have garden space why not start!
  • Your bag can be put in your Food Waste collection as it is home compostable. But you may wish to double check locally. 
  • In theory your bag may be put in your Garden Waste collection but please check locally. Some authorities such as Wiltshire list compostable bags as not suitable.
  • The bag is made from Plants not Plastic – so please DON’T put it in Plastic Recycling it will contaminate the recycling stream.

If you don’t have any of the above collections then black bag waste is a last resort. This is the worst option as it doesn’t put the bag to good use completing the circle from plant to soil.

If you want to know why we we’ve removed plastic from our packaging please read our post on plastic pollution

We’ll explain more about the plant based materials we’re using below…

What do Lick the Spoon Use?

All of the materials we’re using that we put the Compostable sticker on are Home Compostable and are based on the plant based brand name ‘Natureflex’ film. You can see the Natureflex certifications below. We’ve also tested them in our own home compost heap.

Natureflex Certification
NatureFlex™ films are certified in accordance with the Industrial composting standards, EN13432 and ASTM D6400, by Din Certco and the BPI. In addition, all standard NatureFlex™ films are suitable for home composting and have been certified to ‘OK Compost Home’ by TÜV Austria.
INDUSTRIAL COMPOSTABILITY
The key elements of the EN 13432 test programme include:
Biodegradation
A minimum 90% biodegradation versus a control sample in a maximum of six months.
For NatureFlex™ films this is achieved in less than 45 days.
Disintegration
A pilot composting test ensures that the material physically breaks down within three months.
Material Characterisation
Includes heavy metal testing and determination of the volatile solid content.
Ecotoxicity
Compost from the disintegration test is used to ensure that the components have no adverse effects on the plant growth.
HOME COMPOSTABILITY
The test programmes for EN 13432 and ASTM D6400 confirm the suitability of a material for composting in an industrial composting plant. In this situation, the conditions are optimised for biodegradation at a temperature of ca. 58ºC.
In many countries however, consumers actively compost their garden waste at home, either in compost bins or heaps, eliminating the need for collection. These processes are more variable due to lower temperatures (rarely more than 2 to 3oC above ambient temperature) at less optimised conditions. Under these conditions, certain compostable materials do not exhibit sufficient biodegradation.
NatureFlex™ films have been tested and approved to the OK Compost Home standard, which repeats the EN 13432 test protocol for biodegradation and disintegration at ambient temperatures, albeit over a longer time frame. They can, therefore, be successfully composted in a home composting environment and typically break down in just a few weeks.
SOIL AND WASTE WATER BIODEGRADATION
The NatureFlex™ NE30 grade has been tested to the MITI aqueous biodegradation test (ISO 14851) which demonstrates that it will also break down in waste water and in soil, as well as under home composting conditions.
ANAEROBIC DIGESTION
All families of NatureFlex™ films have been tested to ISO 15985 (High solids anaerobic digestion test) at 52ºC. After 15 days all the films, exceeded the test requirements, reaching a similar level of biodegradation to the reference.
MARINE BIODEGRADATION
The majority of NatureFlex™ films have successfully been screened for biodegradation and disintegration in seawater, according to ASTM D 7801-05 and ASTM D 6691-09.
End of Natureflex Certification

So are Home Compostable bags better than plastic?

So potentially the best way of dealing with Home Compostable packaging is to put it in your own Garden Compost heap and put it back to the soil. However not everybody will have a compost heap. Nonetheless, in our opinion at the present time Home Compostable materials such as Natureflex are a huge leap forward. If they end up in the wrong place they will degrade rapidly with minimal harm to the environment.
Whereas the current state of Plastic recycling and shipping plastic waste abroad is an environmental disaster.
But it is a rapidly changing and complex field – one of Imperfect Sustainability.

Home Composting Scheme

Food waste collection schemes in the UK vary depending on the local authority.
In Wiltshire where Lick the Spoon are based there is no Food Waste collection scheme. But, if you have space there is a subsidised Home Composter available http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/reducing-your-waste-and-composting
This is the composter we have used in our trials and we’ve found it to be incredibly satisfying to see Food and Garden Waste break down into useful compost. It’s reduced the the amount of black bag waste to almost nothing on a two weekly collection.