New guidance for compostable plastics recycling

WRAP, the UK non-profit organisation focused on resource efficiency, has published new guidance to help businesses make informed choices when considering the use of compostable packaging.

The guidance identifies key applications and opportunities for compostable plastics packaging such as food caddy liners, fruit and vegetable stickers and ready meal trays.

WRAP also offers recommendations regarding how to inform consumers about the appropriate disposal of compostable plastics packaging – for example, explaining whether the item can be composted at home or not, and highlighting the importance of not putting the packaging in the recyling bin with conventional plastics.

“We know from research that 77 per cent of citizens believe that compostable plastics are better for the environment than other types of packaging. However, compostable plastics are still plastics, and it is no silver bullet for solving plastics pollution,” warned Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at WRAP.

“Businesses need to be clear on when it is viable, given the complexities surrounding current treatment infrastructure,” Bird added. “When it comes to recyclability, WRAP is clear that a claim of ‘recyclable’ should only be made if it can be recycled in practice. The same should be applied to compostable plastics. And it is critical that end markets for recycled plastics are not compromised; people need clear instruction not to place compostable plastics in the recycling bin.”

However, according to Bird “there are certain applications where it can be a helpful alternative to conventional plastics; absolute no-brainers include fruit stickers and tea bags. This new guidance will help steer decision-making on this complex and high-profile topic.”

Meanwhile, WRAP plans to launch a campaign in March to provide factual and balanced information about plastics, including compostable plastics.