Watch Out for Unrecyclable ‘Eco-Friendly’ Packaging

Ever wondered just how eco-friendly that compostable packaging is? The truth is a lot of packaging marked as compostable or ‘eco-friendly’ is in fact rubbish, which ends up in the landfill.

Images of non-compostable packaging itemsThe problem is particularly common in the takeaway industry, where packaging may look like cardboard but it’s often layered with a thin plastic film so it can hold liquid or food.

“The way this packaging is marketed is misleading and adds to confusion around recycling,” says Waimakariri District Council Solid Waste Asset Manager Kitty Waghorn.

These items can’t go in the green bin (due to their mixed materials) and also can’t go in the yellow collection bin for recycling either as they’re not a recyclable plastic.

“The easiest way to make sure you’re on the right path is to take a second look to make sure it’s 100 percent paper or cardboard before composting or putting it in the green organics bin.”

Organics collected in Waimakariri at kerbside make their way to Living Earth in Christchurch, who turn nearly 50,000 tonnes of food and garden waste into compost each year. Living Earth is only consented to receive food and garden waste, and the resulting compost is certified ‘organic’.

Including plastics in the green bin that call themselves ‘eco-friendly’ contaminates the compost and invalidates the organic certifications needed to sell compost on to customers.

“There’s a feel-good factor when buying goods that appear to use compostable packaging because you think you’re being an environmentally-conscious consumer,” says Kitty. “Unfortunately, this is just one of the ways that shoppers and even retailers are being greenwashed.”

These are some of the commonly ‘greenwashed’ items found in the green or yellow kerbside bins that need to go in the rubbish:

  • Home delivered meal kit packaging – even if it says its compostable
  • ‘Cardboard’ containers for takeaways
  • Takeaway coffee cups
  • Compostable or biodegradable bags and packaging
  • Pringles tubes
  • Tetra Pak or any other carton that contained liquid

To find out what can be accepted in your green and yellow kerbside bins, visit rethinkrubbish.co.nz and to learn more about compostable and biodegradable packaging visit WasteMinz.