Compostables, Plastic in Disguise

July 12 2023 – Zoe Hoole

Compostables, Plastic in Disguise

Compostables, Plastic in Disguise

From 1 July 2023 the Government has banned more single use plastic items, including plastic produce bags, plates, bowls, cutlery and straws (excluding those who require them for health needs). It may be a surprise to some, included in the ban are compostable alternatives. 

Compostable, biodegradable or ‘plant-based’ plastic alternatives are included in the ban (with the exclusion of produce labels). The reason for this inclusion is most compostable plastics don’t actually end up in a composting system. They are often simply sent to landfill or are littered, in which case they behave just like conventional plastic. If they are composted, they may still have adverse soil impacts, such as microplastics, and chemicals can remain in the environment following the physical breakdown of materials. 

Many products that claim to be home compostable don’t actually degrade in a typical home composting environment. If an item looks or feels like plastic, but claims to be made from PLA, PHA, corn, sugarcane, wheat or any other ‘natural’ source it could be plastic in disguise. Even plastic items with composting certifications can fall into this category. When purchasing alternatives to banned plastic items (other than produce labels), ask your supplier to confirm in writing that the items do not contain any form of plastic polymer, including compostable plastic or bioplastic. It’s important to not rely solely on logos, labelling or product claims that are not proof of compliance.  

As New Zealand tightens its grip on single-use plastics, the inclusion of compostable alternatives within the ban highlights the need for greater awareness and responsibility. We believe all small actions collectively can make a big difference, so when you make your next purchase seek out genuine sustainable alternatives and together we can pave the way for a cleaner, greener future for the next generations.



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