Compostable Fruit and Vegie Bags

Historic ban triggers awareness on what’s really ‘green’

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Compostable Postal SatchelsThis week South Australia’s historic ban on single use plastic products starts, with items such as straws, stirrers and cutlery now banned, however that’s just the start. Next year the ban will expand to polystyrene containers, and … drum roll please … oxo-degradable plastic products. We are really excited to see oxo-degradable plastics being banned, and hopefully it will raise awareness of their risks and trigger further bans across Australia.

To our horror our Compost-A-Pak products are often compared to oxo-degradable products, mainly due to the success of marketing strategies which make Oxo-degradable seem ‘green’, however this is far from the truth.

For nearly 15 years we have been campaigning for more transparent ‘honest’ labeling, and encouraging our customers to research and better understand what they are buying. Below we have broken down some popular marketing terms including Oxo-degradable and provide our take on what’s really green, and what to look for when you are purchasing.

Australian Certified Home Compostable AS5810  – RECOMMENDED

  • Products with this certification, like Compost-A-Pak® are proven to breakdown in a home compost with no harmful residue. They are plastic free!
  • The Australian Certification (AS5810) is one of the strictest certifications in the world, and so to be accredited, products need to pass an additional toxicity test. As such you can be confident bags with this certification will breakdown as nature intended, with no harmful residue or micro plastics.
  • Given we compost our bags and use the resulting compost for our family vegie patch, we always look for the AS5810 or AS4736 certification before purchasing any compostable products.

Australian Commercial Composting Standard  AS4736  – RECOMMENDED

  • An Australian Certification confirming that the products are suitable for Commercial Composting Facilities such as those used by councils as part of FOGO programs. You can be confident products with this certification, like Compost-A-Pak® are made of plant based materials and are plastic free.
  • To be accredited to this standard, compostable products must biodegrade at least 90% within 90 days in a commercial composting facility. Despite being so durable, the Compost-A-Pak® products were shown to biodegrade 99% in half the time!

Oxo-Degradable – SOON TO BE BANNED, THIS IS ONE TO AVIOD. 

  • These materials are usually plastic based with added chemicals to speed up the time in which the plastic breaks down with heat, oxygen and UV light.
  • Whilst the material may disappear from sight, it breaks down into microplastics. In contrast, compostable products breakdown at the molecular or polymer level.
  • Microplastics are considered by many to be more dangerous to the environment than larger pieces of plastic, as they so easily spread into the environment as pollution, and can enter our food chain. Their effect on human health is still being studied by scientists, who estimate we may be ingesting up to a credit card of plastic every week! Definately one to avoid!

Degradable

  • For a product to degrade, it simply means it will breakdown into smaller components.
  • Usually plastic based, often this degrading will occur faster because the plastic has been treated with chemicals to speed up the process.
  • Alternatively, these products can also be a combination of plant based and plastic made material.
  • In both these cases the resulting material is micro plastics, which should be avoided given the pollution risks.

Landfill Degradable

  • Similarly, these bags are usually a plastic based material which breaks down more quickly given chemicals or plant based additives.
  • Interesting, when placed in Australian Landfills, often the materials are compressed with other wastes to reduce the oxygen content, and so slow down the rate at which all materials breakdown given this process actually adds to carbon dioxide emissions and the leeching of pollutants including microplastics.
  • Whilst a clever marketing term which sounds environmental, we believe this is one to avoid.

Biodegradable

  • A biodegradable product relies on organisms rather then chemicals to break down the product into smaller components. Often however, material promoted as bio-degradable contains a combination of plastics and plant based products. As such, whilst the bags do breakdown faster than they normally would, they may breakdown into microplastics.
  • If products do not have Compostable Certification, it’s best to assume they are not completely organic and so contain either toxins or a proportion of plastics.

Flushable

  • Usually made from a polyvinyl alcohol, these solutions are being presented as a water soluble bag which provides a way to save plastics and dog waste from Landfill. Unfortunately the bags are proving less water soluble than promised, and so are causing significant issues in our sewer system. When trapped, they are then removed at enormous expense, and placed into landfill.
  • Despite some recent rebranding of a key brand following a War On Waste Report, these bags are still suggesting they can be flushed. This is another one to avoid!

What ‘eco’ marketing terms have you questioned? We would love to hear your feedback and experiences.

dog pick up bags

How our family minimise waste when out

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As you would probably expect, our family are passionate recyclers with an entire four stream recycling setup!

However, we believe the key to living more sustainably is actually reducing the amount of recyclables and landfill we purchase. Here are our three top family’s tips.

 

OUR PRECIOUS CANE BASKET

We never leave the house without my favourite cane basket. It sits near the front door, waiting for adventure. The basket is always packed with my reusable bags, a fold of Compost-A-Pak Singlet Bags and a number of Fruit and Veggie Bags (or 8 litre bags) which I pull off the roll as needed. Always having this when we are out of the house means we never have to use plastic carry bags, even for our fruit and vegetable selections at the markets or for meat at the butchers. Whilst I love my reusable bags, I don’t like to use them for any meat and fresh produce. Instead I pack this fresh food straight into my plant based Compost-A-Pak bags, and then throw them straight into the fridge or freezer as needed.

OUR PICNIC STASH

We also have a picnic stash in the car with a blanket, reusable cups and cutlery, which means we are always prepared to eat out, even if it’s unplanned. Whilst obviously we still generate some waste, eating in or choosing carefully and eliminating drink containers, straws and cutlery does make a difference. The kids are also in the habit of grabbing their water bottles every time we leave the house. It’s a great way to reduce single use bottles, and of course that we don’t hear “I’m thirsty!” as soon as we leave the house.

 

THOUGHTFUL PURCHASES

This is where I would love to tell you we purchase all our fruit and vegies direct from the farmers with no packaging, and make all our own snacks from scratch. We don’t! We are a very busy family, and as is the case with so many modern families, as parents we both work very long hours. We do however have sustainability as one of the driving forces of all our purchasing decisions.

  • We consistently aim to buy quality rather than quantity, and particularly with our clothes, we try to choose natural fabrics to minimise the microfibres released when we wash. This doesn’t always mean you have to spend more. It’s just about spending time researching and buying at the right time.

 

  • We eat lots of fresh food, and try to purchase them plastic or packaging free, either at the markets when we can make it or instore. We place loose items in our plant based Fruit and Vegie bags or 8 litre bags.  We will sometimes even pay extra for the loose items, however if not unreasonable, we think it’s worth it to make a stand against the unnecessary packaging. Often these loose items are also fresher, without the protection of bags and the ‘modified atmosphere’ used to make them look fresh.
    • With all this fresh food, we rely on some really easy and quick recipes that ensure dinner can be prepared quickly. Food marketing is designed to convince us that we need to buy extra packets and jars of flavour for speed and convenience. In my experience they are not necessary.
    • We also pack the kids lunches without packaging. This can be achieved with simple changes like purchasing a large block of cheese to cut rather then buying precut packaged cheese.
    • We also avoid store promotions and giveaways. I’m actually amazed how well our kids embrace this when you sit down and explain why our family chooses to say no.
  • Presents, particularly with kids can be challenging, however we try to avoid plastics when possible. For our own kids, we try to focus on experiences and the kids just love it.

 

We would love to hear more about your family’s sustainability tips. It’s certainly a journey, and we find we get a little bit better each year.

 

FOGO bins

‘It doesn’t require a lot of effort’: Sydney council’s food recycling trial extended

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Our team have been promoting Food Composting Programs for multi-unit dwellings for such a long time, and are really excited to be working with local Sydney Councils, who are proving how easily it can be done!
This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Pictured is our Kitchen Caddy customised specifically for the trials, and Australian Certified Compost-A-Pak® liners. This Kitchen Caddy has been made in part of Recycled Material (Milk Cartons, food containers etc)  collected in Council Roadside Recycling programs.

When Erin Clay moved into an apartment, the last thing she wanted to do was contribute to landfill by throwing food waste into the rubbish bin.

So Ms Clay, of Potts Point, was quick to join the City of Sydney’s kitchen recycling trial.

Erin Clay recycles her food scraps under a City of Sydney program. 
Erin Clay recycles her food scraps under a City of Sydney program. CREDIT:JACK CROSSING

“We’ve never really had compost solutions for inner-city living, so I think it’s good when you don’t have a backyard and can’t do it yourself,” she said.

She was familiar with the trial, having initially joined while living in a share house.

The city’s food scraps recycling initiative would be expanded to more than 21,000 households this year, a City of Sydney spokesperson said.

The council provides a small kitchen caddy, a supply of compostable caddy liners and a food scraps bin to residents.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said: “An average Australian family throws out an astonishing $3500 or more worth of food every year, amounting to about one tonne of food waste.

“With approximately 8 per cent of our total greenhouse gas emissions generated by waste, it is vital that we divert as much waste from landfill as possible.”

While other Sydney councils have a combined food and garden organics waste service, the City of Sydney said this option was unworkable given the city’s large proportion of apartment dwellers. In 2021, the council will be assessing more permanent food organics recycling solutions.

“Preliminary results indicate the trial is on track to success, with good recovery and participation rates, low bin contamination, high customer satisfaction, and delivery of multiple environmental benefits,” the council said.

In Woollahra Council, residents can get a free kitchen caddy and caddy liners. “Our residents can create compost simply by placing their scraps into their green-lid bin,” a council spokesperson said.

Woollahra operates under the Food Organics and Garden Organics system facilitated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. It allows for the disposal of food and garden organics in a combined system that converts food waste to compost and fertilisers.

Penrith City Council has been part of the program for 10 years and Randwick will join in 2021.

 

“It doesn’t require a lot of effort, but you’re still doing something good for the environment,” Ms Clay said.

Having experienced a more specific waste disposal system while living in Japan, Ms Clay believes it’s a matter of education just as much as an issue for councils.

“I think that Australians have a really limited knowledge of where things go … people put coffee cups in the recycling,” she said, calling for more education and accountability, as well as consistency across councils.

The City of Sydney continues to recruit apartment buildings for the food scraps trial.

Three Steps for Simple Reusable Wrapping Paper

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Each year we like to challenge ourselves to live more sustainably. As a result, we very rarely put out our Landfill Bin and have managed to establish a really easy plastic-free packed lunch routine for the adults and kids alike.

 

At Christmas time, it does often seem a little more challenging. Our Christmas is a very large extended family affair with lots of children, and so after sharing gifts, we often end up with a floor of wrapping. Whilst we always purchase recycled paper and reuse or recycle, there is no doubt we can do better.

This year we have committed to making our own reusable Christmas Wrapping, which we will repack with the decorations for next year. I’m certainly a sewing novice, and am hoping that no one looks too closely at the stiches, however in truth, the process was a lot quicker and easier than I expected. Our 10 year old even ended up sewing for the first time and took over the production side!

Step One
Choose your Material & optional Trim. We were unable to purchase any recycled material unfortunately, so selected a Linen option, as it is a little more sustainable using much less water to produce compared to cotton. We purchased 5 meters, with a number of presents to wrap. We also decide to use a trim, and given the kids chose, we selected the brightest most festive options possible.

 

 

Step Two
Cut the material to size. We wanted to have a generous gathering to knot the top, so we simply folded the fabric over on the diagonal to mark out large squares and then cut. We then cut some squares into four squares, resulting in a few large and some smaller wraps.

Note – The knot design we have chosen does use a lot of material. Instead if you use ribbon to secure the material in a more traditional way, the fabric can be cut closer to the size of the gifts being wrapped. This will means you will get more wraps out of the same material.

Step Three.
Fold the edge and then iron to secure the fold. Repeat this again to create a double fold. Using a sewing machine, sew the double fold into place. We also added our ribbon trim as we stitched to save time, however you can separate these steps if you prefer. Given the wrap will only be used to secure gifts, a single stitch will suffice.

 

 

It’s as simple as that. We then placed treasures such as the Christmas Kitchen Caddy Kit onto the centre of the wrap and knotted both corners to fold. One thing to note, the gifts are easily unwrapped, so I will be adding some extra ribbon to secure the knot for those who won’t be able to resist peaking at what’s under the tree.. like the kids and Pete!

We would love to hear any other ideas you have for making Christmas even more sustainable.

Our family always gather under our Native Australian Christmas Tree, and we have some favorite old-fashion recipes we prepare every year to help us reduce our food waste. You can check them out here, Matt’s Stolen Chilli Jam Recipe, Nana’s Pickled Cucumbers

 

Five Steps For Drying Native Daisies

Australian Native FlowersDrying flowers is the perfect way to preserve your favourite flowers, and be able to enjoy them indefinitely. This process can also be a fun experiment to do with the kids, helping them develop an appreciation for the creativity and beauty of nature.

The Golden Everlasting Daisy (Schoenia filifolia subsp. Subulifolia) is a gorgeous Australian Native with a bright yellow flower. It can live in most Australian environments however, unfortunately it is listed as Declared Rare Flora under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950. It’s one of the seeds we often giveaway as part of our Native Flora Program. 

To grow, these seeds like to sit on top of the soil, and the emerging daisies enjoy a splash of water every day, particularly during their first 2-3 weeks as a seedling.

Golden Everlastings Daisies are the perfect flower to dry out, as they are both  beautiful and quite speedy to dry out in comparison to other flowers.

OUR FIVE STEPS TO DRYING NATIVE DAISIES

Native Flower Drying

  1. Nurture your flowers as they grow with water and compost to ensure they are at their best. The aim is to maximise their colour and form when dried.
  2. You need to harvest flowers at the perfect time. A sunny afternoon, when they are completely open and dry is a great time. Cut  near the base so you have a generous steam. They can always be trimmed later.
  3. Carefully gather the flowers into small bunches and tie them with a natural twine to secure.
  4. These bunches need to be hung in a dark, dry room to air dry, if possible, with minimal light and humidity. This will ensure the vibrant colour is maintained. To hang, we find it easiest to simply loop the twine through the string.
  5. Your flowers should be ready to turn over and display in approximately 3-4 days. This may take a little longer depending on the hanging environment and humidity.

Five simple steps and you should have bunch of bright flowers to get you through the duller winter months.  Enjoy, and make sure you send through photos of your success stories as well as any tips.

Flower Drying Natives

2300 tonnes of food and garden organics recycled

2,300 Tonnes of Food and Garden Organics Recycled in Byron Shire

2300 Tonnes of food and garden organics recycled

2,300 Tonnes of Food and Garden Organics Recycled in Byron Shire

Originally published in the BYRON BAY BLOG. For more information about this publication or the beautiful Byron Bay area, click here . 

Congratulations Byron Shire! You have recycled 2,300 tonnes of food and garden organics in six months!

 

This has reduced Council’s putrescible landfill waste transport and disposal costs by approximately $150,000 since the implementation of the three bin collection service in August. Plus, Byron Shire has on average 30 per cent less kerbside waste going to landfill compared to the previous two-bin system.

Of the total kerbside waste collected each month, an average of 31 per cent is organic materials, 32 per cent recycling and the remaining 37 per cent is landfill waste.

Mayor Simon Richardson thanked residents for being a ‘good sort’.

Overall Byron Shire’s kerbside recycling rate is now 63 per cent, compared with 38 per cent prior to the introduction of our organics service. It’s a great result.

“Particularly impressive is that we have maintained this over the extremely busy Christmas holiday period. But we can do better, let’s aim for a total recycling rate of 70 per cent,” he urged.

Instead of being buried in landfill, our organic materials are processed into certified organic compost at Lismore City council’s composting facility and used by local farmers and growers to improve agricultural soils.

Local farmer and founder of social enterprise, Munch Crunch Organics, Alasdair Smithson, has been using Lismore’s kerbside organics compost for seven or eight years.

“Overall we are happy with the product and it is a good soil improver, hopefully we can do it in the Byron Shire soon too,” he said.

Alasdair thanked the community for contributing their organics because the compost is being used by local farmers and growers.

“It’s really important to us as organic farmers, that we return organic waste back to the soil to build the organic matter and reduce the effects of climate change by doing so,” Mr Smithson said.

Suffolk Park resident, Suzie Morley is happy to have been part of this important environmental initiative and says the three bin system works well for her family of four.

“We compost anyway and have a worm farm, but we were producing more organic waste as a family than the worms could cope with,” Ms Morley said.

“It’s a super easy system and we find we hardly use our red bin.”

Ms Morley said the key to making the system work is to have three bins set up in the kitchen.

We have a cardboard box in the cupboard for all of our recycling and a bin with a liner in it under the kitchen sink for all landfill waste and the caddy on the counter right next to the chopping board for all food scraps so it’s convenient when we are cooking.”

“I think it’s good for training the little ones and now even our four year old Millie knows about composting.”

Contamination update

Organics bin contamination continues to be very low; Council is still keen to remind residents not to use plastic bags, degradable or biodegradable bags in the organics bin.

Place food organics inside a green compostable caddy liner, wrap scraps in newspaper or place directly inside the caddy. All food and garden waste, including things like meat bones, seafood and soiled paper can also go in the organics bin.

Yellow bin recycling results are also good, but the main contaminants are bagged hard plastic recyclables and loose soft plastics.

This has the potential to spoil a whole truckload of recycling and everybody is needed to stay on board and put the correct items into each bin.

If you need a reminder about what items go in each bin, check the A-Z Recycling Guide on the Byron Shire Council website.

As part of the 3 bin collection service, Council continues to conduct weekly visual bin contamination audits which are a great way of providing extra education to our residents about what items can go in each of the bins.

Byron Shires Kerbside Resource Recovery

We’d also like to thank the Byron Shire Echo for supporting this local environmental initiative by introducing a green compostable bag and we encourage anybody else in the same position to jump on board and use compostable instead of plastic bags!

Find out more about our three bin collection service at www.byron.nsw.gov.au/your-three-bin-collection-service