Photo Credit: ORASA - Supplied

The world is innovating ways to move away from plastic packaging, and compostable options are now on the market, but not all are safe yet. This is how you will know.


South Africa (24 May 2022) – People are becoming more acutely aware of how harmful plastic is to our environment, especially to our rivers and oceans. In response, many packaging companies in South Africa are switching to compostable packaging to try and reduce the use of plastics.

Compostable packaging has its own challenges, and the Organics Recycling Association of South Africa is concerned that the switch to compostable materials may result in damage to our soils and long term food production. This is why they are raising awareness about the products best suited for use and what to do with them.

“Compostable products (including coffee cups, bagasse plates and cups and cutlery made from Poly-lactic acid) are required to be tested in a laboratory to ensure that they breakdown in a defined period of time (usually 83 days depending on the standard used) and do not leave a harmful chemical residue that could potential affect plant or animal health,” explains Melanie Ludwig, founder of Zero to Landfill Organics and original member of the Organics Recycling Association of South Africa.

What is compostable packaging?

Compostable packaging means that the materials can be placed in a home compost bin to decompose into nutrient-rich soil within a certain period of time. All materials of the packaging should be able to break down including the printing ink.

How do you know your compostable packaging is safe?

There are several international certification systems already in use, and any imported products should be labelled with a conformity label and registration number. This makes it possible for a composter to be able to check a product’s compostability certificate on a central database.

ORASA to protect consumers from bad compostable packaging.

Unfortunately, there are many products entering South Africa that are marked “Compostable” that are, in fact, not compostable and contaminate compost and soils with micro-plastics and other chemicals.

To ensure that only certified compostable packaging is imported into South Africa, the Organics Recycling Association of South Africa is creating awareness around how to identify correctly tested and certified imported products.

For locally manufactured products, the CSIR and SABS are working towards a certification system to test and approve products so that local composters can compost these products with confidence. There is currently no South African certification system, so only internationally certified products should be accepted for composting. However, SA is great at accurate labelling so this shouldn’t be far from becoming a reality.

To make sure that the compost produced from compostable packaging is safe for our soils, ORASA is advising its members, who process compostable products, to only accept correctly labelled and certified materials so that the compost produced is safe for our soils.

If you are using or purchasing compostable products, please remember that these products must not be landfilled as they break down into methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. All compostable products must be composted, along with food waste, in a home composter (if certified for home composting) or at an industrial composting facility.

Please contact the Organics Recycling Association for more information at 083 696 5138 or email

Sources: ORASA
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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