Only 40% of plastic labeled “compostable” completely decomposes, according to a study.

Only 40% of plastic labeled "compostable" completely decomposes, according to a study

Only 40% of plastic labeled “compostable” completely decomposes, according to a study

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Representative Picture

According to a recent study, you should think twice before using plastic that is advertised as compostable to dispose of food and garden waste.

Only 40% of the plastic that is advertised as “compostable” actually totally dissolves into natural substances as it should, according to research. They claim that the remaining 60% of household compostable plastics do not completely decompose in home compost bins and may consequently wind up in soils.

The experts advise the public to send compostable plastics to commercial composting facilities where composting conditions are regulated as a result of their findings.

According to research, 60% of household plastic labeled as “compostable” doesn’t completely degrade and ends up in our soil. The Guardian newspaper’s packaging, which was made of compostable plastic, is shown. It has not yet completely decomposed in the compost bin.

This pack is wrapped in a fully biodegradable material made from potato starch, the front of the package states. Because of this study, The Guardian has already stopped utilizing this content.


The term “compostable plastic” refers to a substance that can degrade biologically in a composting environment at a rate comparable to that of other known compostable substances while producing no observable (toxic) byproducts.

Compostable plastics are mostly used for food packaging, bags, cups, plates, cutlery, and bags for biodegradable garbage. However, according to University College London experts, the majority of waste management nt systems are now incompatible with compostable plastics.

Additionally, they note, there is no “harmonized worldwide standard” for household compostable plastics. Researchers from University College London are the primary authors of the new study, which was published today in Frontiers in Sustainability (UCL).

According to the author’s article, “compostable and biodegradable plastics are becoming more and more popular, but their environmental credentials need to be more thoroughly investigated to see how they may be part of the solution to the plastic waste challenge.”

‘The majority of the biodegradable and compostable plastics evaluated under various home composting circumstances did not fully decompose, including 60% of those that were certified “home compostable,”‘ according to the study.

According to research author Danielle Purkiss of UCL, “The typical fate of trash or incineration is not frequently explained to customers therefore the environmental claims made for compostable packaging can be deceptive.”

To find out what the public thinks about home compostable plastics, how we handle them, and if they completely decompose in our compost, the team created a citizen science project.

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Food packaging, bags, cups, plates, cutlery, and bio-waste bags are some of the principal uses for compostable plastics (pictured)

An online survey asking people in the UK about their attitudes toward compostable plastics and food waste was first completed by participants from throughout the country. After that, participants were encouraged to take part in a home composting experiment where they timed the rate of degradation of several plastic types and posted their findings online.

9,701 individuals from all around the UK took part in the study in total, 902 of them finished the home composting experiment. Over the course of 24 months, the researchers gathered the data. They discovered that 46% of the plastic packaging samples lacked any recognizable standards marking for residential composting and only 14% had certification for industrial composting.

Even more astonishingly, 60% of the plastic that was approved for residential composting did not completely degrade in compost bins.

64122473 11382385 The experiment also showed that compost bins are important sites a 19 1667410518621
With images brought in by participants illustrating 14 various groups of species, including fungi, mites, and worms, the experiment also demonstrated the importance of compost bins as sites for biodiversity (pictured)

The survey also discovered that the public is perplexed by the labels of compostable and biodegradable plastics, which results in improper disposal of plastic waste. Despite the fact that consumers are “generally willing” to purchase biodegradable plastics, this is the case.

According to Purkiss, there is now a lack of clear labeling and information that would enable the public to understand whether the packaging is suitable for home composting or industrial composting and how to properly dispose of it.

In the variety of home composting conditions seen in the UK, compostable packaging does not decompose efficiently, resulting in plastic pollution. Even material that has been approved for household composting is not decomposing properly.

Participants said they use compost in their vegetable and flower beds, which means plastic “inevitably” gets up in UK soil.

The participants’ pictures of 14 different groups of creatures, including fungi, mites, and worms, demonstrated that compost bins are essential areas for biodiversity and that compost bins are an important source of these images.

The analysis comes in the wake of an OECD report from February that indicated that only 9% of plastic garbage is recycled, while 50% ends up in landfills, 22% avoids waste management systems, and 19% is burned.

Many nations have established goals to completely eradicate single-use plastics and make all plastic packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025 in response to the pollution catastrophe.


Only 9% of the plastic that is used globally is recycled, according to OECD data released on Tuesday. According to its report, 460 million tonnes of plastic were used in 2019, more than doubling from 2000.

The Paris-based OECD reported that over that time, the amount of plastic garbage has more than doubled to 353 million tonnes.

According to the Global Plastics Outlook, just 9% of plastic trash was actually recycled when losses from the recycling process were taken into account. The remaining 19% was burned, and nearly 50% ended up in sanitary landfills.

“The remaining 22% was either released into the environment, burned in open pits, or dumped in unmonitored dumps,” according to the report. Ahead of anticipated negotiations on a worldwide plastics convention, the OECD advocated for “coordinated and global solutions.”

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