How to compost your packaging


Emily Boyd of Yandina Community Gardens shows us how to work with compostable packaging

After another tumultuous but somewhat restful festive season, we're reflecting on the spirit of giving. Regardless of whether you wrap presents in shiny paper and ribbons or recycled toilet paper wrapping (we’re looking at you, Who Gives A Crap), there’s also a serious amount of packaging flying around, including from online orders. We can’t help but think about where it comes from, and of course where it goes, when the holiday sparkle fades.

Our society appears to be somewhere in the early stages of a post-plastic packaging era, as more and more alternatives are entering the market to replace the use-once-last-forever plastic products, which are based on petro-chemicals. From ‘re-usable’ to ‘recyclable’ to ‘biodegradable’ and now ‘compostable’, there have been many iterations on the single-use bag alternatives, some more effective than others in terms of performance and scale. 

With online sales skyrocketing since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to achieve more circular solutions in packaging, and compostable packaging seems to be the best less-bad option so far. 

What are compostable mailer bags made of? 

Bioplastics are typically made of cellulose, starch, sugar or oils. More specifically, compostable packaging is usually made from corn starch, PLA (vegetable-based plastic material) and PBAT (composting co-polymer).

Using a certification system like recycling, a ‘AS 5810 Home Compostable’ certified product will biodegrade in 3-6 months and can also be commercially composted. On the other hand, ‘AS 4736’ should be sent to a commercial composter. Look for these symbols on your packaging to determine where to ‘throw away’ your compostable mailer bag. 

Look for 'AS 5810 Home Compostable’ certified product to use in your home compost

How can I compost my packaging? 

It’s pretty hard to imagine this packaging material, which certainly looks and feels like plastic, decompose like old fruit and vegetables! So we asked expert Emily Boyd, of Yandina Community Gardens and Food Waste Loop on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, how to make sure your compostable packaging actually breaks down.

Emily says to first strip off the seal and any plastic tape that may be found on the bag, which is kind of like making sure your fruit doesn't have any stickers before throwing it in the compost. Seljak Brand uses compostable shipping labels, but like any other packaging, you never know what kind of tape and labels are added to the bag as the package makes its way through the logistics system.

Then, says Emily, cut up the bag into smaller strips that will be more easily digestible by your home compost, and throw them in with the rest of the food scraps. This is also to ensure the bag doesn’t get caught up in the fork or corkscrew turner that’s used to provide aeration to the compost system. Also, a whole bag can prevent the easy flow of gases and moisture. Cutting up the bag can allow for maximum airflow in your compost, and create a healthy compost environment.

Cut compostable packing into strips so it breaks down easier and doesn't get caught up in your turner

Of course, Emily says that the best first step is to reuse the bag itself, if possible. We’ve taken to opening online mailer bags with scissors along the top and use them again as mailers (a lot of them have two plastic strips so they can be used a second time!), or as bin liners for the kitchen, bathroom and office. 

Which compostable packaging does Seljak Brand use? 

To send blankets to customers, we use Better Packaging compostable mailer bags, which are designed to decompose alongside other organic matter. You can compost these mailer bags in a home compost system. If you don’t have a home compost, you can send them back to Better Packaging, which will industrially compost them. 

We use Better Packaging mailer bags – look for the secondary seal so you can use it again!

Here’s more information from Better Packaging if you want to start a home compost or find a community compost or collection site near you!