The difference between good and bad compositable plastic

By Domini Stuart | 27 Jun 2022 View comments

In NSW, businesses have been banned from supplying customers with lightweight single use plastic bags since June 1. Other states have either taken action already or made a commitment. In WA, for example, harsher restrictions will take effect on July 1.

Here, a ban will apply to all plastic shopping bags with handles of any thickness, including paper bags with plastic laminate. The ban also applies to disposable plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, unlidded bowls and unlidded food containers, including those with plastic coating.

A second round of changes affecting drinking cups will come into force in October.

Compostable confusion

Compostable and bioplastic alternatives sound like a good alternative but these, too, are prohibited.

“This is leading to some confusion,” says Anaita Sarkar, co-founder and CEO of Hero Packaging. “In fact, the ban only applies to items that require commercial composting facilities, including Australian certified compostable plastics. Those which are certified home compostable are not banned.”

So what’s the difference? 

“Home-compostable products are made from materials that fully decompose into the soil of a home compost bin or garden,” Sarkar explains. “Industrial composting requires a highly controlled setting, often including very high temperatures. If these kinds of compostable plastics end up in landfill they don’t break down, so they create as much of an environmental problem as conventional plastic.”

Help and information

The National Retail Association has spent the first half of this year engaging with businesses to help them understand and comply with the upcoming changes. The Bag Ban webpage provides state-by-state information and updates, and there’s also a national hotline – 1800 738 245.