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Compostable Courier Bags – Send Plastic Packing

HCF courier bag

We all know that we need to reduce our consumption of single use plastics. But what are viable alternatives? Here’s a new product that will send plastic packing!

Here at BJ Ball, we send out a significant number of courier parcels per year. Like many businesses, smaller sized parcels make up the bulk of our outgoing deliveries. Historically, these went out using custom printed plastic courier bags – something we were not overly thrilled about. Wanting a greener solution, we put our feelers out through our global supply network to source an alternative. Here it is! The new BJ Ball Home Compostable Courier Bag.

Courier bags need to be lightweight, strong and water resistant. This is why plastic has always been the ‘go-to’ material. But, of course, most synthetics are non-biodegradable and simply end up contributing to landfill. The BJ Ball version is made from Kraft Paper which is biodegradable. However, on its own, this stock is neither strong enough for use as a courier bag nor weather resistant. To create a durable bag we have added an inner layer of our new Home Compostable film. This is a protective lining made from plant based materials (sugar cane, cassava and corn).

The BJ Ball Home Compostable Film is certified Home Compostable under the European standard OK Home Compost and the Australian standard ABA AS 5810. This means our courier bag can be disposed of along with other organic waste and will naturally decompose. Plus, our bags are sealed using heat, rather than with a traditional adhesive strip, so there is no additional waste.

We’re so excited about this product that we’ve added it to our range!

A Word on Compostable Products

It is not uncommon to hear the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ interchanged. So let’s clarify what they both mean…

  • Biodegradable – under the right conditions, naturally occurring micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and algae ‘eat’ these products to produce water, carbon dioxide and biomass. Biodegradation relies heavily on the environment in which it takes place. For example, compost, soil, water and marine environments all contain very different micro-organisms and how active they are depends on the amount of oxygen and the temperature of their specific environment. However, to be accurate, a claim of biodegradability needs to specify the environment and length of time in which it will biodegrade. There is also a danger of products leaving toxins behind after biodegrading.
  • Compostable – these products will break down into water, carbon dioxide and biomass, without leaving traces of toxins, over a specified period of time and under the right conditions. There are two types of composting – home composting and Industrial composting both of which have their own certifications.

To summarise, compostable products are biodegradable, with the added benefit of releasing valuable nutrients into the soil. Thus aiding the growth of trees and plants. Biodegradable products break down but may leave traces of metals or oils and do not release valuable nutrients into the soil.

Industrial vs Home Composting

It is important to differentiate between industrial and home composting to ensure your products find their appropriate end of life. Let’s take a look at the two different certifications used in New Zealand and Australia.

Industrial CompostableAS 4736-2006: Industrial Compostability

In Australia, for a product to be certified as compostable, it must comply with the AS 4736-2006 standard. This standard is similar to the European EN 13432 standard but has an additional requirement of a worm test.

It is important to note that industrial compost facilities are very different to home composting systems. They are able to process organic waste at high temperatures that cannot be replicated in the home (50°C or higher). Thus accelerating the rate at which the waste decomposes. Therefore, just because something has been certified for the AS 4736-2006 standard, does not mean it will decompose in the same way in a home compost system!

In order to comply with the AS 4736‐2006, products in industrial anaerobic composting facilities need to meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum of 90% biodegradation within 180 days in compost.
  • Minimum of 90% should disintegrate into less than 2mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks.
  • No toxic effect of the resulting compost on plants and earthworms.
  • Maximum levels set for hazardous substances, such as heavy metals.
  • Products should contain more than 50% organic materials.

The ABA Seedling Composting Logo endorses products that meet the above requirements. This logo ensures that we can easily recognise these products and materials. It also ensures that we can easily separate out food/organic waste contained in these certified products, and diverted them from landfill.

home compostable film certAS 5810-2010: Home Compostable        

Although a home composting system is very different to that of an industrial facility, the core requirements for the certification remain the same. For a product to be certified to the AS 5810-2010 standard, it must undergo stringent testing conducted by recognised and accredited third parties.

Due to the differences between a home compost system and industrial compost facility, the testing period for this standard is a maximum of 12 months. However, the end results remain the same as the AS 4736-2006 standard. That means:

  • a minimum of 90% biodegradation,
  • no toxic effect to compost, plants and earthworms
  • materials should contain more than 50% organic material.

The home compostable logo helps the end consumer, customers and/or municipal authorities to recognise compostable packaging and dispose of it accordingly. However, seeing “compostable plastic” on the label isn’t a license for us to get lazy. We must still be conscious of how we dispose of them.

This article was originally published in GSM Re-Edit. To read this and other great articles purchase this issue here.