Ever wondered what the difference is between recyclable, bio-degradable and compostable food packaging products?

Just about all takeaway food packaging products are recyclable, however only some products are biodegradable and compostable. So why is this the case? Read on to find out why.

Recyclable means the packaging can be recycled if the material is clean and not contaminated with greases and oils, and the local council/waste management contractor has processes in place to actually recycle the material. New Zealand recycles very few plastics - which means that it's becoming more difficult to sell our recovered plastics overseas as importers have placed huge reductions on the amount of plastics allowed in their processing lines. 

Biodegradable means that the material will breakdown (degrade) faster by undertaking specific biological processes. “Bio” means that living organisms will increase the degradation of a material. Biodegradable materials are not always compostable, as some biodegradable plastics are still petroleum-based plastics and take hundreds of years to degrade. Making petroleum-based plastics biodegradable does not make them a green option, it simply speeds up the decay and the plastic molecules just become smaller (and more dangerous) sooner rather than later. Petroleum-based plastics should be recycled and are not designed to biodegrade.


Compostable means that the material is made of organic matter, it will naturally biodegrade, and, in the right conditions, it can be converted into compost. The length of time it takes for an organic material to breakdown depends on the conditions in place (temperature, moisture, air, pressure) and the material. This is all very difficult to accurately ascertain as the conditions vary so much. All plant-based products are bio-degradable and breakdown can take a few weeks to a few months.

Green Choice products are biodegradable and compostable. This is because they are plant-based (kraft cardboard, sugar cane, bamboo and plant starches) so they naturally break down and can become compost in the right conditions. This means that the remaining matter is suitable for use as compost (fertiliser) and safe to become part of the soil system.

Click here to find out more about Green Choice plant based food packaging range.  

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