Problem plastics in composting and AD

The UK Plastics Pact's Collaborative Action Group on problematic and unnecessary single use plastics continues to work on a draft list of such products, the list including potential options for achieving beneficial change, such as avoidance of a product type / form where possible, redesign (some of which have potential to become compostable), improvement of recycling infastructure, and encouraging behaviour change.  The REA participates in this CAG's activities and on 5th December submitted our written response about products on the draft list.  The UKPP draft list is not yet publically available but we anticipate that a revised version will be published in due course.

In the meantime, we would like to hear from more composters and AD operators about which plastic products are non-target material (i.e. contaminant) in the organic waste you receive and particularly if they, or visible pieces of them (even those less than 2 mm), are in your ready to use compost / digestate output and/or in the case of composting, the woody oversize material.  

The following is a *non-exhaustive* list of plastic or plastic-containing used products for operators to consider;

  1. stickers on unpackaged fruit and veg items which can be purchased singly and on bunches of unpackaged bananas,
  2. 'Best before' or 'Use by' tags / stickers / labels on food / drink products,
  3. net bags that hold multi-fruit / multi-veg items, 
  4. tea bags,
  5. straws,
  6. stirrers, e.g. for hot drinks,
  7. the stick part of cotton buds,
  8. disposable / single use cutlery and PSM cutlery (the latter is made from a blend of plant starch and 20% polypropylene),
  9. food-contact grade filter papers, e.g. used when making coffee drinks from ground coffee, 
  10. bottle caps / closures,
  11. milk jiggers,
  12. light- to medium-weight carrier bags (not ‘bag for life’ bags), where it has been agreed with the organic waste supplier that it is is collected in compostable bags/liners or no bags,
  13. bin liners, where it has been agreed with the organic waste supplier that it is is collected in compostable bags/liners or no bags, and
  14. bags that are not carrier bags or bin liners, such as bread, fruit, veg and bakery product bags.

When replying, please list any plastic or plastic-containing used products that are problematic non-target material at your treatment facility, what type of facility you operate and in which output(s) they can be seen (including woody oversize material from composting processes).  We would also appreciate any feedback about which used products on your list are the most problematic.    

N.B.: Operator's individual responses will be kept confidential.  REA will aggregate the anonymised responses, aiming to achieve a more comprehensive list of the problematic plastic products in the context of commercial composting and AD treatment processes.

Please email with your responses or call to discuss (07771 556231) this call for feedback or broader aspects of UK Plastics Pact activities.

Our website poll:

We are asking 'Composters, does plastic contamination in your oversize material prevent it from being upgraded into mulch product or SRF / RDF material?'

To date, 7 respondents have said yes (64 %) and 4 respondents have said no (36 %).  We would welcome responses from more composters. 

Webpage updated: 06/12/2018 

page rated 
 - add your vote : 1 2 3 4 5 out of 5

visitor comments

AfOR Homepage
May 25
Text size + X -
Members' Area
forgot password
Become a Member!
Join the Organics Recycling Group at the Renewable Energy Association by clicking below.

Where are you based?
How far from you should I search?
What type of member do you need?