The term biodegradable is quickly becoming tarnished within the eco-friendly field. With so much confusion, many shoppers are left worrying if their choice of products is less environmentally friendly than they first thought.
"Not all biodegradable products are created equally, with some containing nasty additives that are toxic to our environment," Nadia Crighton from Biotuff says. "This is completely counterproductive to the eco-friendly population, leaving many consumers confused around their choice of products in this space."
Consumers are advised to read the fine print and research their chosen brands to ensure the terminology around the biodegradable products they support is 100% in line with their environmental stand.
"Many consumers purchasing biodegradable products assume they are 100% safe for our environment – and rightly so," Crighton says. "However, this is simply not the case. Consumers must educate themselves on the additional additives that are also bad for our environment."
Last year, the National Plastics Plan moved quickly to phase out plastic packing products with additive fragmentable technology that does not meet relevant compostable standards (AS4736-2006 and AS5810-2010). By 2025 they aim to ensure 100% of all packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, with 70% of all plastic packaging set to be recycled or composted.
"Unfortunately, with Food Organic Green Organic (FOGO) deadline now being pushed back for all Australian businesses and homes from 2023 to 2030, this goal could be seriously stalled," Crighton says. "Communities need to push their local council and become advocates for compostable kerb side collections in their local areas."
Education around biodegradable terminology is vital for all Australians. Marketing in the space can be confusing for many who want to make a solid eco-friendly choice. Some biodegradable products are not made from renewable resources and are traditional plastic wrapped up to sound like a better alternative. Biodegradable plastics are often labelled inaccurately and are made from fossil fuels while creating microplastics. They can also readily contaminate other plastic recycling systems.
These plastics are known as oxo-degradable plastic. Even though the Australian Government is phasing them out, consumers should be aware of the dangers of misleading information on packaging.
"Many countries are now in a rush to ban these products as they are very misleading to consumers. However, it is up to the public to become savvy with this type of marketing to make the right choice when purchasing their eco-friendly products until the bans take effect."
With plastic being a multi-billion dollar industry, these types of marketing trickery are expected to continue. The key is to support businesses that only make biodegradable products from plant-based materials. In addition, consumers need to look for products containing biodegradable/compostable polymers with no additives. This is the key to ensuring your biodegradable/compostable plastics are environmentally safe.
"It's ensuring you understand what other additives are lurking in your bioplastics," Crighton suggests. "Confirming that the product is compostable is a good way to ensure it contains no nasty additions and is biodegradable."
Look for if the product has compostable proprietary resins, compostable raw materials, or compostable polymers. For consumers, it can be as easy as hopping onto the business's website and ensuring that the product is 100% biodegradable and only contains plant-based materials that can be easily broken down. When a product is compostable, you can be assured it is 100% biodegradable.
Biotuff recommends always keeping a close eye out for these two certification.
"Biodegradable plastics do not have the certifications and standards that compostable products require," Crighton says. "Always check for the certification standards on your biodegradable/compostable products. This is a great way to ensure the eco-friendly products you invest in stack up to your eco-friendly standards."