Let’s break it down: testing compostable packaging

With the recent publicity around the Climate Emergency, it is great to see radical change happening across our consumerist society, with businesses responding to ‘do their part’. But is it just PR hype, designed to lure the conscious-customer in?

Plastic-Free July is a global campaign that gives us all an opportunity to observe how much plastic infiltrates our homes, our workplaces and our shopping carts, and just how hard it is to avoid it in our lives. This is not because we as individuals are addicted to plastic – but that the industry is. Plastic is the easiest, cheapest option out there for companies to use. But the true cost is the impact it has on the environment.

This is why it is so wonderful to see companies going the extra mile – investing their profits in developing plastic-free or environmentally-friendly alternatives.

The past couple of weeks have seen more and more products released that CLAIM to be compostable. Many gardeners are confused by these products, rightly questioning whether they are truly compostable and will break down in their compost, worm farm or Bokashi. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, the packaging substitutes will not.

The definition of compostable is:

a product that is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil. This typically must occur in about 90 days.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will look at some of those products on the market that are claiming to be compostable. Let us start in our back yard in New Zealand, where Nelson-based Proper Crisps have launched the first compostable packaging for their product.

After much discussion around the packaging amongst my colleagues and friends, wondering whether they had indeed cracked it with something truly compostable, the wonderful Kathy Vowles wrote to them to ask what their packaging was made of.

I must say, it was wonderful to get such a transparent, honest reply. Many companies either don’t bother to answer you or you simply trigger an automated email reply that doesn’t really answer the question at all.

Below I have included the reply from Proper Crisps for you to see for yourselves. Let me take this opportunity to point out to my followers that I am NOT paid or rewarded in any way by Proper Crisps – just an advocate for any company that produces plastic-free alternatives that work!

“Thanks for reaching out! Glad to hear news of our new Crisps has reached you. Our packs are made of compostable films derived from sustainably-managed renewable resources. The films used to make these packs have been individually certified to the European and American compostability standards EN 13432 and ASTM6400, and European OK Compost HOME standards. The films are made from cellulose which is derived from wood pulp, and GMO Free Corn Sugars.

“Our suppliers have confirmed that the formulation of their inks and adhesives contain no heavy metals that would be harmful to worms, seedlings or the environment. Our bags are designed to break down in a home compost environment, and will also break down in commercial compost facilities. The recipe for successfully composting our bags is the same as regular compost guidelines – the right balance of heat, moisture, oxygen, soil and micro-organisms. You also need a good balance of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ (our bags count for the ‘brown/dry’ part of this equation!)”

 So, there you have it folks – these break down in our normal home compost and are not toxic to worms. But before you buy, check you’re purchasing one of their compostable bags, as it hasn’t rolled out to all product lines just yet.


Take the challenge today, compost a packet and let us know your results here at Grow Inspired!

Happy composting!

2 thoughts on “Let’s break it down: testing compostable packaging”

  1. Thank you so much Claire, this article is so helpful and appreciate your efforts to obtain information and hold companies accountable.

    Our garden is also “doing” things that have left me wondering and I now feel (comfortable) asking / pondering the following;

    Our Capsicums took ages to come up. When they finally did they were prolific and I still have one plant going (some peppers are turning orange). In my heart of hearts I can’t bring myself to yank it out.

    The yellow cherry tomatoes are also still producing and are sweet and colourful – slowly coming to the end now.

    The “eye-rolling” question I wanted to ask……..Is it OK to leave vege’s that continue to produce even if the season is “past due”?

    In short your blog was very timely.

    Thank you

    Warm regards

    PS I buy vege seeds from Running Brook Seeds that are organically grown (Awhitu Peninsula). While there are a number of factors that contribute to the success of growing vegetables it pays to have good seeds. Can’t rave enough about their seeds!

    1. Hi Cathy, yes I agree Running Brook Seeds are amazing. Yes, please do leave your summer veg in if they are still producing. Why not, I say, it so mild! I still have chillis producing. Just be mindful of the rain. Happy gardening! Claire

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