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Breaks down to become part of healthy soil in a home compost pile.
Compostable materials go a step beyond biodegradable materials by breaking down into natural components and becoming a part of healthy soil. Home compostable materials do not require the high heat (over 136° F) of industrial compost facilities to break down. They can biodegrade in the moderate heat (68-86° F) of home compost piles/bins. The concept of home compostability has come to carry extra weight as many commercial compost facilities are refusing to collect products designed for industrial compost.
Tests for compostability measure material disintegration, ensure the tested material has no adverse effects on plant growth, and account for toxicity by setting minimum amounts of heavy metals.
Home composting certifications include TUV's OK compost HOME certification in Europe, and AS-5810 Home Compost standardin Australia. In the United States, BPI offers certification but only for industrially compostability.
At the end of a product's life, some materials can be recovered or disposed of to minimize environmental impact.
Why choose it?
If it can meet your design needs, home compostable packaging is a better choice than industrially compostable packaging because there is a higher likelihood that the material will actually get composted — either at home or at a neighborhood dropoff.
The infrastructure is not yet in place in most US cities to properly process industrially compostable materials. Some cities have local drop-off or compost pick-up services to meet the needs of cities that do not offer curbside compost collection.
The purpose of composting is to return nutrients to soil and limit the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere as materials degrade in landfills. Compostable packaging is not nutrient-rich in the way that nitrogen-packed food waste or lawn trimmings are. Compostable packaging offers carbon to compost, which is a much smaller proportion.
However, compostable packaging can be particularly effective when designed in tandem with products that inherently return nutrients to the soil (i.e. containers for food waste or poly bags that double as food scrap bags)
Home compostable materials are also industrially compostable, though not all facilities accept compostable plastics.
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