Has it ever struck you that, as an environmentally aware person who is keen on sustaining the environment and to act responsibly as a householder and citizen generally, there is a lot of packaging you use that probably could be safely composted in your yard/garden compost heap, but you are unsure which? This may even be a heap which you already use for peelings, carrot tops, kitchen scrapings etc., but a lot of material goes in the residual waste bin unnecessarily.
In the UK there are thought to be millions of home owners that have compost heaps (or bins) nowadays, and the most environmentally sustainable method of disposing of organic waste is of course to keep it at home and use it for the benefit of the consumer’s own garden.
Is the rising cost of food and the realisation of the improved flavour of really fresh home grown produce, sending you in common with many others, back into the garden to grow food? Have you actually succeeded in obtaining an allotment? In which case, along with many scores of others, you are rediscovering the joys of growing your own food, and this is for you.
The UK based, Association for Organics Recycling (AFOR) recently launched (on 22 February 2011) a ‘Home Compostable’ certification scheme, geared principally to the UK market.
The idea is that many products will, under this scheme, be provided with a clear and easily recognisable ‘Home Compostable’ message on the packaging. This should encourage householders to home compost them instead of putting these items in their organics, dry-recyclable or residual waste bins for collection at the kerbside. This has long been something many people would like to do, but until now were not confident to do so. For example, some food wrapping film is home compostable – but how do you know which?
It is true that ‘home compostable’ packaging / plastic waste can be commercially composted, but this is a net cost on the rates. The local municipal solid waste disposal department does not get this service for free – far from it.
Cost, in this case indicates that resources are being used over and above the value of the commercial compost products produced from commercial composting. Thus, the sustainability of commercial municipal composting is lower than correct yard/ home composting.
So, this new AfOR scheme is a win-win! That’s because the certification mark will direct this material into home composting bins, which will help to reduce the resources, costs and carbon related impacts associated with kerbside collection, treatment and disposal of our organic household wastes.
AfOR now operates, with European co-partners, two packaging and product certification schemes covering the EN 13432 standard for ‘Industrially Compostable’ and the Belgian criteria for ‘Home Compostable’.
The ‘Industrially Compostable’ standard EN 13432 has been established in Europe since 2000 and can be claimed for packaging products that meet its requirements. However, this standard’s biodegradation test uses laboratory-scale composting conditions that are equivalent to industrial conditions rather than home composting ones. This provides the opportunity now being pushed forward by AfOR for appropriate types of bio-based products to be recognised as ‘Home Compostable’.
Jeremy Jacobs, AfOR’s Managing Director, said “We have responded to calls for the development of a UK based certification scheme for ‘Home Compostable’ packaging and products. Our new partnership with AIB Vinçotte in Belgium means that this new scheme uses the same ‘home compostable’ criteria established by our partner 8 years ago and that any product certified under this scheme can also carry AIB Vinçotte’s ‘OK compost HOME’ certification mark.” Addition of the latter mark could be appropriate for products marketed for use in the UK and Belgium, and to any other country where that mark is already widely recognised.
Working with WRAP on development, AfOR’s ‘Home Compostable’ certification mark is in keeping with the already established On-Pack Recycling Label Scheme, a WRAP-initiated scheme with broad buy-in amongst packaging manufacturers and retailers in the UK.
Further details about the new AfOR-Vinçotte certification scheme for ‘Home Compostable’ packaging and plastic products can be found on AfOR’s website: http://www.organics-recycling.org.uk/.