Inorganic materials like plastic cannot be composted, but what about plastic items labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable,” like bags, produce stickers, cups, and utensils? These may not be accepted in your green bin program. Read on for more information.
Plastic items labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable” don’t belong in the green bin
Certification standards currently allow a plastic to be called “biodegradable” or “compostable” if it breaks down to a specified degree, over a minimum period of time, when exposed to a certain minimum temperature and other physical conditions. However, not all commercial composting and digestion facilities operate under those conditions.
The result is that many “certified biodegradable” plastics may not sufficiently biodegrade in existing commercial composting or digestion facilities. To be safe, leave them out of your green bin unless your municipality or your service provider specifically says their processing facility accepts them.
Read more about this issue in the National Zero Waste Council report, Regulatory Approaches for Priority Plastic Wastes.
Businesses that offer “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastic items may have a program in place to ensure the correct disposal. Private waste haulers may also accept these items.
Most municipal food scraps recycling programs in Metro Vancouver currently do not accept plastic items labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable.” Contact your municipality for more information.
What happens if plastics end up in the green bin?
When “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastics go in the green bin, they can cause operational problems, may not break down properly during processing, and may contaminate the finished compost. Leave them out to be safe, unless specifically allowed by your municipality or service provider.
If the operator identifies plastic bags or other non-compostable materials in the green bin, the entire load may be rejected and sent to landfill.
How to dispose of “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastic items
In most cases, dispose of “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastic items in the garbage. They are not accepted in recycling in BC. Read more on Recycle BC’s website.
Some private waste haulers may accept a specific type of plastic bag. To find out, contact your municipality or your waste hauler.
Do not litter plastic items labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable.” They require very specific processing conditions to biodegrade, and will not break down in the natural environment.
Read more about this issue in the National Zero Waste Council report, How Do We Use and Recover More Compostable Packaging? – CanadianPerspectives.