What is the best Compostable Packaging?

What are the different types of compostable packaging, and which types are best?

In a world where climate change and and sustainability are increasingly well publicised and understood, consumers are actively looking to minimise their impact on the environment. Consumers have become more conscious of the products and packaging they are purchasing and are actively choosing to consume and engage with brands who offer new sustainable alternatives such as compostable packaging.

As if the need to reduce global plastic use wasn’t enough of a driver for brands seeking the right packaging option, a recent study found that 73% of consumers would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. With 46% of consumers willing to switch to sustainable newcomers over established brands, choosing the right sustainable packaging, like compostable materials, will unlock growth for smart businesses. 

But not all compostable packaging is created equal – this guide will help you understand the difference between the options available and will point you in the right direction to choosing the most environmentally sustainable option to grow your business. 

There are three options available on the market that easily confuse anyone looking for a sustainable packaging option. They are biodegradable, commercially compostable and home compostable packaging. Find out which option is best for your business.

What does Biodegradable packaging mean?

The concept of biodegradable plastics was introduced in the 1980’s. As a result, consumers have consequently been misled in believing that if they choose to consume a product packaged with biodegradable packaging that they are making a positive difference to the environment. 

Biodegradable plastics will breakdown in soil so they “cannot be seen by the naked eye”. Contrary to common belief, many only break down into microplastics leaving harmful toxins in the surrounding areas and find their way into waterways and the ocean having a hugely negative impact on both our ocean and its precious marine life that is so vital to sustain all life on earth.

What does Commercial compostable packaging mean?

Compostable packaging is 100% sustainable, disintegrating and biologically decomposing to become rich organic soil. The problem is that for this to happen, an industrial composting facility is required to treat the packaging at temperatures over 55 degrees. Unfortunately, this cannot be achieved in a backyard compost environment.  Polylactide Acid (PLA) is a form of compostable plastic that needs to be broken down in an industrial compost facility. It is made from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane.

In New Zealand, we lack commercial compost facilities and there are only a handful are located around the country. While it is great that so many brands are choosing compostable packaging for their products, and consumers who are minimising their plastic consumption are purchasing them, the intentional result is not being achieved in little-old-NZ. Simply because we don’t have the infrastructure in place and the packaging ends up in landfill anyway. Although the intention with these types of plastics is to create a sustainable solution to global plastic consumption, if the correct disposal facilities are not available then the result of opting to use this type of packaging for your business is no better than using single-use plastics for the environment.   

Thankfully, there is a final solution that is both suitable for New Zealand’s facilities and the global plastic crisis.

What does Home compostable packaging mean?

This is the silver bullet for sustainability - the answer to NZ’s sustainable packaging challenge.

Home compostable packing will breakdown and decompose every component and material used in the packaging into organic soil. From printing ink, and the adhesives used to seal the package, it’s all organic; the whole package. Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) plastic is the main material for home compostable packaging. It is both compostable and marine degradable reducing greenshouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and toxicity effects on the environment; a truly sustainable packaging option that is being globally adopted. 

Home compostable packaging allows your consumers to not only know that they are purchasing a 100% sustainable package that has zero impact on the environment, but to place the packaging in their compost at home, or put in their green waste bin. From plant to dirt; nothing else can offer a more environmentally friendly solution.

Contour offer the ONLY home compostable, and sealed, food trays in New Zealand.

Contour is here to help

Helping food manufacturers choose and use the right equipment and materials to grow their business is what we live for. With 20 years’ of keeping New Zealand’s produce fresh, we have the engineering expertise and service to level our customers up and keep their packaging lines humming along smoothly.

Talk to our team today about compostable packaging options to suit your business.


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