What about bio-plastics, biodegradable and compostable plastics?


Bio-plastics, biodegradable and compostable plastics can be confused but in fact, each means something different.

Are compostables the answer?


A bio-plastic means it was made from a plant-based source, not fossil fuel. It doesn’t mean it biodegrades (breaks down naturally) in the environment – a plant-based plastic is still plastic.

Bio-plastics are either compostable or recyclable – but not both. Check the label for information on correct disposal.

If something has the word ‘bio’ in front of it, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s more environmentally friendly.

Biodegradable and compostable plastic

Biodegradable means something that will break down in the natural environment. But it doesn’t mean anything on its own – it only has meaning if it’s certified as compostable.

Compostable plastics should not go in with plastic recycling. Compostable plastics are designed to break down in very specific composting conditions rather than be recycled.

Making plastic compostable doesn’t reduce the huge amount of plastic we consume, and composting infrastructure in the UK is limited.

Any plastic (even compostable) in our environment can have a detrimental impact because when it breaks down it doesn’t add nutrients to the soil.

Recycling plastic

It’s more beneficial to the environment and the economy to use plastic packaging that can be recycled . The material has value and can be re-used and recycled back into packaging – which compostable plastics can’t.

To find out more about what to recycle where you live, visit