Compostable, recyclable and upcycled… what’s the difference?

With a lot of jargon thrown around in this sustainability space, things can get confusing — especially when you’re trying to figure out what’s the best solution for your business. Here’s where we drill down to the differences between compostable, recyclable and upcycled.

With a lot of jargon thrown around in this sustainability space, things can get confusing — especially when you’re defining the right sustainability path for your business. Here’s where we drill down to the differences between compostable, recyclable and upcycled.

1. Compostable

When a product is compostable, (like our compostable cups or bags), it’s able to be decomposed to organic nutrient matter — provided it’s disposed of properly. Once decomposed, it’s in a state that can be returned to the earth. Depending on the type of materials used to make the product, it can either be home composted (often in a big barrel-like container in your backyard) or commercially composted via your local service.

Pros: Composting is the most ideal end-of-life for single use packaging because an item is made from plant-based materials, and then can be returned to the earth after use.

Cons: Right now, less people compost than recycle. We believe that with more education, this is something that should change over time.

2. Recyclable

Recycling involves taking an existing product, breaking it down from its current state through a recycling process and turning it back into raw materials — ready to be made into a new item.

Pros: Recyclability is arguably the most accessible circular solution right now. Almost 97% of Australian households recycle, whereas only 23% of Australian households compost regularly.

Cons: PET plastic, the new plastic used to make the initial product which can then be recycled, is a manmade material that can’t ever be returned to the earth. There have also been some issues flagged over the past few years with the sustainability of the recycling system as a whole (especially soft plastics recycling). There’s also a huge amount of waste that ends up in recycling bins that can’t actually be recycled.

3. Upcycled

Upcycling is similar to recycling in that they both involve using existing products (instead of using new resources) and creating them into something else. The difference is that upcycling happens when a product is used in its existing current state to create something new. For example, making light fittings out of coat hangers, or a water carafe out of glass bottle packaging.

Pros: It reduces the need for production using new or raw materials which means a reduction in air pollution, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and often a conservation of global resources.

Cons: Upcycled is an option for the repurposing of some products, but it’s not viable for lots of others. Because the item is repurposed in its exact state, there are limits around what you can upcycle it into.

When it comes to single-use packaging, we offer compostable and recyclable options. To find out more about the EcoBarista range and how we can support you in your sustainability journey, reach out to our team today.

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