With the rise of people choosing to pass on plastic, the range of more sustainable disposable items has skyrocketed. 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.
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 break down whilst food and garden waste only takes six weeks at an In-Vessel Composting facility.
The only thing you can put in your food and garden bin (aside from food and garden waste) are compostable food bags with the EN13432 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 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.