Why we need to be clear about biodegradables and compostables

by Avril Sainsbury BA Hons  Ei8ht Design & Cleaner Seas Project


Why we must be clear about biodegradable & compostables

With my Cleaner Seas Project hat on and with a keen interest in recycling/waste management and having previously worked in Brands packaging, one of the issues that I deal with for the Cleaner Seas Project and lately A Greener Bude is biodegradables/compostables.

There is much confusion about biodegradables at a time when small to large businesses and consumers are looking for a sustainable, viable alternative to plastic.  There is potential in our desperation to find these solutions that we opt for alternatives that we believe to be better for our environment, when in actual fact we know little about them or how they will be recovered. 

Could we be, in our attempts to find an alternative to oil based plastics, adding to the confusion and pollution?


The Problem

Currently there are no international or national standards in place for home composting.   "Home composting" falls under the "Industrial Composting" standard (see EN 13432 Standard below)

Requirements of the EN 13432 standard

Why is this a problem?

Currently companies selling their products in biodegradable packaging can claim that their products are "compostable" or home compostable even though there is no existing standard for this.  Many products that are listed as "home compostable" or "compostable" must be recovered via industrial composting or the plant based polymer it is made from could exist in our environment for a long time.  

For example

Snact claim that their products are home compostable.   Crisp packets (Walkers Crisps alone produce 10,000,000 a day) are non recyclable so to be told a company offer a solution with fully home compostable snack packets is music to my ears.  After a little searching and questioning I am told by Snact that their products are made from a plant based polymer.  After further questioning I am told it is fully home compostable.  This is contrary to what I currently know about plant based polymers.

Snact Claim on their website that their products are indeed fully home compostable.   BBC online news has applauded Snact for this remarkable packaging that looks like plastic but is fully home compostable.  


Please note that I have used Snact as an example because we have recently connected on Twitter, but there are many companies providing plant based polymers as an alternative to oil based plastics.

Snact Packaging


Tipa products are compounds and films that comply with EU 13432 (shown above) and ASTM D6400 standards and are certified for both home and industrial composting through the OK Compost mark by the Vincotte Institute.

ASTM D6400 - 12
VINCOTTE certification


Tipa describe Snact packets as Certified as compostable in industrial conditions EN13432 on their website.


Tipa refer to Snact packets as certified as compostable in industrial conditions EN13432
Tipa website, Snact in industrial composting conditions biodegrading

Snact do acknowledge on their website that industrial composting facilities where temperatures are approximately 50 to 60°C differ from that of  home composting which has lower temperatures and is less constant than an industrial composter and so is usually more difficult and slower paced.   They suggest that it will take 6 months to compost in a home composter.  I've asked them for some scientific proof to back this up.  

However there are other questions I have... depending on how many snack packets you might use per week, what size composter would one consumer need to compost these packs effectively? Also how many consumers know how to compost correctly and effectively anyway? What percentage of the UK population have access to a composter and are able to compost at their home?

That's not to say this is impossible, but It appears to me that we do not have an infrastructure currently that can deal with this. 


Snact Q & A

My concerns: 

It is imperative at a time where there is already massive consumer confusion about what can be and what cannot be recycled we are clear about what packaging is made from and how we recover it.  Clear labelling and alongside that clear defined legislation and strict standards are needed.  We are, with plant based polymers adding another stream to the already failing UK waste management system.  

What needs to be done:

For biodegradable to be a better option than recyclables we must be able to recover it correctly.  It is essential that there is an infrastructure in place to deal with this.  Currently there is not.

We need better legislation and standards to cover biodegradable and compostables urgently.

Clear labelling on products about what the packaging is made from and how it should be recovered.

An infrastructure in place to recover plant based polymers - industrial composting (aerobic digesters with food waste, although it is possible that plant based polymers may be filtered out of this system) 

It is my belief that if we do not put legislation, standards, infrastructure and clear labelling in place now, "biodegradable plastics" have the potential to have a massive negative impact on our already suffocating environment. 

Biodegradables continue to encourage a disposable thought process and consumers may wrongly believe their "compostable" packaging will disappear when they drop it on the ground, in the ocean or send it to landfill.  This is the belief of most people I have spoken to about it. This in turn relieves consumers of responsibility of what happens to packaging once it has left their hands.   In addition to this biodegradable plastic will contaminate an oil based plastic recycling stream.  

It is incredibly hard to find information on this subject and I made the decision to write about it in the hope that  individuals, businesses and organisations will get in touch and add to my thoughts.  Waste management is currently complex and I implore the Government, big brands, product and packaging designers, scientists and waste facilities to put their heads together and use some joined up thinking.  Let's connect those dots.  Let's do it now. 

The Ban List (link below) has provided some much needed evidence about how biodegradable plastics behave in the environment and back up my concerns.  

Please do get in touch if you have something to add to this article.  We're all on a journey to find better solutions and I would be very interested to hear what you have to say.  I do not claim to be an expert on this subject but fear the consequences of businesses keen to be a part of the solution to the plastics problem are inadvertently adding to it.  

If we don't ask the questions we won't find the answers.


Sign the Cleaner Seas Project petition for Clear legislation and standards to cover home composting click here


Avril Sainsbury


Ei8ht Design

Cleaner Seas Project



The BAN List 2. 

BBC news online



New Plastics Economy





Branding, Print and Content for Bude Cleaner Seas

Living so close to the Ocean, I'm passionate about cleaner seas, safe bathing water and an unpolluted environment for marine life.  For many years now, I've been involved with local beach cleaning groups and have always picked up and encouraged my children and friends to pick up marine debris when we're walking along our beautiful Cornish Coastline...  

So I was very excited when asked by Ian Saltern to undertake work for The Cleaner Seas Project, a national pilot project being delivered in Bude by Volunteer Cornwall on behalf of the Environment Agency.  The project aims are to ensure that bathing water quality reaches, or exceeds, the new 2015 required standards. 

Branding and content for use on social media. Photograph and branding for Bude Cleaner Seas by ei8ht design

The branding I created for the project is clean, clear and contemporary with an abstract image representing rivers and oceans.  

The imagery and message is consistent and runs across the Cleaner Seas Project print and content across all channels. It was an incredibly happy moment to see the Cleaner Seas Project flag flying on the flagpole on The Breakwater on Summerleaze Beach, Bude, Izzy's sail and the editorial in Cornwall Today.  

One of the aims was to convey the Project's message to the local and wider community.   Multiple channels were used to do this, Facebook, Twitter, print, flags, banners, board stickers, beach cleans, magazine editorial and a shareable video.  We were delighted that Team GB windsurfer Izzy Hamilton and local up-and-coming grom Kit Innes agreed to be involved too.  Both gave their time and voice to the Bude Cleaner Seas Project video and many thanks to Izzy and Team GB for supporting the Cleaner Seas Project by displaying the logo on Izzy's sail.  

Congratulations to Ian Saltern, Volunteer Cornwall & The Environment Agency for heading up such a forward looking project.  It's been amazing to see Summerleaze and Crooklets achieve 2015 Seaside Awards and Widemouth a blue flag, all seeds which were planted by Ian and the team behind The Cleaner Seas Project.

A massive thank you to Ian for asking me to be involved and for this very kind testimonial.

Ian Saltern

Cleaner Seas Project Manager at Volunteer Cornwall

”Avril was contracted to the Bude Cleaner Seas Project in May 2013 to undertake social media, design and promotional work. I selected Avril because of her strong local knowledge and her well established network of contacts in the voluntary and commercial sector.

What I was not aware of prior to contracting Avril, was the dedication, enthusiasm, flexibility and professionalism she brings to her work. Avril succeeded in engaging and maintaining a significant number of people across a range of social media platforms very quickly. Likewise, Avril went well beyond the terms of her contract in making suggestions and connections which helped to raise public awareness of the aims of the Cleaner Seas Project.

Avril was happy to undertake design work, and make last minute changes to that work (without complaint!), source local printers and other manufacturers. Avril’s ability to combine her social media skills with design and procurement makes her services invaluable.

The Cleaner Seas Project could not have achieved the level of public awareness it now enjoys without Avril’s hard work and dedication. Indeed, of the five UK pilot projects seeking to raise awareness of the issues of poor quality bathing water, Bude Cleaner Seas has been the most successful, and this is no small part thanks to Avril.”



This is not the sort of artwork you want to be looking at for too long when you are on a self imposed low GI diet… but this is so beautiful I could not resist.  

Thin layers of chocolate are slowly removed from a cylindrical block of chocolate to reveal layer upon layer of geometrical patterns.  The Chocolate Mill by Wieki Somers at the Vitra Design Museum, and helped by Swiss chocolatier Rafael Mutter, was adapted from a cheese cutter.

The laborious process reveals many beautiful layers and the length of this process maybe also reflects the length of time it takes to mill really good chocolate… time is not an issue here.

Little chocolate mills are on sale in the Vitra Shop, including special chocolate for refilling.  


Enjoy xx

Bude for Food Festival 2014

(Originally posted September 2014)

My hat is firmly tipped in the direction of the wonderful Bude for Food crew, what an incredible first festival! 

The sun shone, the chefs and local artisan food producers did their thing and the foodies and the party goers of the south west rocked up.  

Happy mackerel moments with Martin Dorey…  Sampling, sampling, and oh well go on then, (be rude not to) some more sampling and lazing in the sunshine on the grass with friends, cider in hand, deliberating Paella or Thai, were a few of my best bits… Plus of course, seeing the logo I designed for Bude for Food in situ, and seeing the incredibly proud faces of the Bude for Food crew


Late Sunday afternoon the Marquee doors closed on Bude for Food 2014 leaving the festival foodies to trek home with full tums, bags full of delicious treats, and a warm fuzzy feeling, and the crew with the task of packing it all away.

A mahoosive round of mighty cheers to everybody who made it happen, it really was a wonderful weekend, you’ve set yourself a very high bench mark for 2015.

Avril X 

#Branding design food foodfestivals bude budeforfood

A colourful life

Ever since I was old enough to hold a colour crayon in my fingers I have loved to draw and create.  It’s never been a particular choice, more something that is a part of me.  I love that 100 different people given just a pencil and paper could each create an artwork, common in it’s medium but that is totally unique.

I was reminded of this recently, when  I received  a surprise parcel from Arjo Wiggins,  … I was the winner of one of three signed prints by Ian Wright, as part of a creative collaboration between Wright, design agency Blast and Keaykolour Paper.  

The Print is of an artwork made using Keaykolour paper rolled into cones to create a 3d portrait of Hendrix, a common theme for Wright, whose work has been inspired by music and has been a contributor for the NME  .. it’s fab and I feel incredibly lucky to have received one of the signed prints.

It’s a clever piece of marketing.  The Exhibition by Wright showcased Keaykolour Paper, in a innovative way.  Wright’s collaboration with Keaykolour is an impressive endorsement, giving credibility.  The idea has “legs”, …. the exhibition, the prints, the competition to win the prints, youtube videos capturing the art in progress, lucky designer who won a print blogging about it, and hence effectively utilising social media.  

The film itself (above) shows Ian Wright talking about his work, and the creative process, using paper not as something to draw on but as a material, and how music has inspired his work.

Avril X

Source: https://youtu.be/dmFwI_9NfKo