You shouldn't put 'compostable' plastic bags in your compost heap, government admits - Mirror Online

Plastic packaging labelled 'compostable' has been branded a con by green campaigners, after it emerged that it doesn't actually do what it says on the label. And there are fears that toxic chemicals from the packaging could seep into the environment

Plastic bags and packaging being labelled as ‘compostable’ can’t actually go in your home compost bin, a minister has admitted. Plastic Product

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It follows the Big Compost Experiment which found that 60% of items marketed as "home compostable" failed to break down in the real world, in garden composters and food waste bins.

It’s led to green campaigners slamming the marketing of so-called compostable plastic as “greenwashing”.

Lord Benyon, a minister for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, was responding to a question from Green peer Natalie Bennett, who called “compostable” plastic claims a “con”.

Lord Benyon told peers: "Compostable plastics must be treated in industrial composting facilities to be broken down and, when processed incorrectly, can be a source of microplastics and contaminate recycling streams.”

He added the government’s focus would be on “reducing unnecessary consumption” and “working towards a circular economy, not composting of plastics."

Green peer Baroness Natalie Bennett called it “blunt and straightforward response from the government” but added that millions of Brits would be “surprised” to learn they can’t compost most compostable-branded plastic.

The government’s waste strategy aims to ensure all plastic packaging sold in the UK is “recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.”

But Baroness Bennett suggested the idea was laughable: "The government talks about reducing single-use plastics, but Brits only have to look around them to see masses of the stuff in shops and cafes - and all too often, littering our streets.”

She added the compost confusion was “just one more area of Tory policy chaos.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Camilla Zerr, said the Tories now need to match the minister’s words with action: “The focus should be on reducing plastic in the first place, not false solutions like compostable plastic. Replacing one single-use material by another doesn’t tackle the systemic problems of the overproduction and overconsumption of single-use products.”

She added: "“The government now needs to match its words with action by doing far more to cut the amount of plastic waste produced in the first place and developing comprehensive policies that encourage widespread reuse and refill.”

The Big Compost Experiment, a massive 'citizen science' study published in April, found that home composting is "not currently a viable effective or environmentally beneficial option for compostable or biodegradable packaging."

The authors added: "Although people are attracted by the idea of compostable plastics, they are confused about appropriate disposal routes."

They also raised fears about the impact on the food chain of plastics put into home composters, saying: "We need to know more about the potential environmental and health impacts of microplastics and the inks and glues used in compostable packaging."

Last month online retailer Abel & Cole scrapped so-called compostable plastic packaging over sustainability concerns.

A Defra spokesperson said the minister’s words spoke for themselves.

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