The truth about compostable packaging

With the rise of people choosing to pass on plastic, the range of more sustainable disposable items has sky rocketed. As a result, we are getting lots of people asking whether compostable coffee cups, straws and cutlery can go in the food and garden bin.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. No matter what’s on the label, compostable or biodegradable cups, straws and plates can’t go in your food and garden bin. And here’s why.

First of all, let’s clear something up. Biodegradable and compostable do not mean the same thing.

The terms biodegradable and compostable are sometimes used interchangeably but they actually mean very different things. Let’s look at the dictionary definitions.

1. A substance or object capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms

1. Something that can be used as compost when it decays

This means that biodegradable items can break down within the environment with the help of bacteria or other living organisms. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the planet. For example, some plastic bags can biodegrade into tiny pieces in around 20 years but they are still harmful to the environment.

Meanwhile, if something is compostable, it means it is made of organic matter and it can completely break down to make nutrient rich compost.

compostable coffee cup

So if all these things say they are compostable, why can’t I recycle them in my food and garden bin?

They may be made from natural materials, and therefore compostable, but compostable coffee cups take years to breakdown whilst food and garden waste only takes six weeks at one of our In Vessel Composting facilities.

The only thing you can put in your food and garden bin (aside from food and garden waste) are compostable food bags with the EN1342 seedling logo on which are used to line the kitchen food caddy. These bags are made from potato starch so break down at the same rate as food and garden waste. This also includes Co-op’s new compostable carrier bags which are being rolled out across Greater Manchester.

So if it’s not food or garden waste, it belongs in your general waste bin.

What’s the solution?

Ditch single use items and choose reusable alternatives. There are so many reusable coffee cups and straws available now. Lots of coffee shops with give you a discount when you take your own cup in too! Why not put a set of cutlery in your bag so you can say no to single use forks? Check out our blog post on reusable items for more great ideas.

Post tags: compostable

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Isla poppyislapoppyRecycle for Greater ManchesterChris HearneDeborah Gregory Recent comment authors
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Deborah Gregory
Deborah Gregory

I think you are too fussy. You could take all the waste and it could easily be sorted by machines but you insist on us doing it. You could recycle more items or get businesses to make more packaging recyclable, . instead you pick on the consumers who are already struggling with the stupid collection system which doesn’t provide enough recycling space for those of us doing our best, means left over food is in our bins for two weeks plus causing risk of disease in this hot weather especially and we are slammed for having garden waste which is… Read more »

Chris Hearne
Chris Hearne

The recycling system is confusing and also differs from other areas both in the mixture of items and the colour of the bins, which seems very strange. Some items have a mixture of paper and some sort of polythene e,g, sandwich wrappers. Where are they meant to go? Yes I know that we could be ripping them apart and putting bits in different bins but life is too short for all that and recycling takes quite a bit if time. Also the grey bins for general waste are far too small so couldn’t each house have as many as they… Read more »

Recycle for Greater Manchester
Recycle for Greater Manchester

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your comment. Items that are a mixture of materials, like sandwich packaging, need to go in the general waste bin. As a general rule, we say ‘if in doubt, keep it out’.

As for your mixed recycling bin, you can recycle the following:
Aerosols, foil and foil trays, food tins and drink cans, cleaning product bottles, trigger spray bottles, shampoo and shower gel bottles, drinks bottles, milk bottles, glass bottles and jars.

You can find more information about what you can recycle at home here:

I hope this helps


Great and really impressive blog for packaging. I really like it.

Isla poppy

Great tips for recycling the paper or card. You proved it that we can use it in many ways. I learned many things from this blog. This blog is amazing. Thank you so much. Keep sharing such useful information and keep guiding us.


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