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Rubbish bin with plastic
31 July 2018

Commissioner questions plastic claims

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton says biodegradable and compostable plastic claims are "confusing".

As the tide turns against plastic, manufacturers have started to make their products more appealing by labelling the packaging as “degradable”, “biodegradable” or “compostable”.

But an inquiry by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton found the claims are not only confusing but often misleading.

“Businesses and consumers face a bewildering array of claims about plastic that can lead to misunderstandings on the part of even the most environmentally conscious citizens,” he said.

Biodegradable and compostable claims don’t mean much unless they’re backed by good standards and the waste can actually be processed. Your compostable coffee cup may be compostable but only if it’s delivered to a commercial composting facility. If there isn’t one, it will end up at the landfill.

To cut through the confusion, the commissioner wants the government to investigate standards and labelling requirements for biodegradable and compostable packaging. There are currently no New Zealand standards.

We support the commissioner’s call. Consumers opting for greener products should be able to trust the claims.

Options for composting or recycling common plastics in New Zealand

  Recyclable[width=medium][tick] Compostable (home)[width=medium][tick] Compostable (commercial)[tick]
PLA-lined certified compostable cup with PLA lid No

Oxo-degradable single-use bag No No No
Certified compostable bag No

Soft plastic bag (polythene) Yes


No No
Plant-based PET soft drink bottle Yes No No
PET bottle Yes No No

GUIDE TO THE TABLE = can be processed. = commercial processing requires suitable collection scheme and acceptance by facility. Success of home composting will depend on actual method used. = generally cannot be processed in New Zealand. * = collection bins available at some supermarkets. No option for kerbside collection.

SOURCE Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

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