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Beekeeper’s Notes; Compostable Plastic – Good or Bad?

Published on: 1 Jan, 2019
Updated on: 29 Dec, 2018

by Hugh Coakley, beekeeper in Worplesdon

It’s seasonally cold now and the bees are clustering together in the hive to keep warm. They don’t venture out below 8C to 10C degrees. Their wings don’t work in anything colder than that.

I am also huddling indoors and, over breakfast, saw that there was something different with the beekeeper’s magazine this month.

It came in a compostable wrapper. “That sounds great” I thought “Less plastic must be good.”

But it’s never as simple as it sounds.

The label says ‘biodegradable’ but is it really?

Plastics discarded and ending up on river banks, beaches and oceans (Cardiff River Group).

Has it degraded or is it just fragmenting and leaving the nasty micro bits behind? Is it being composted at home or in a recycling facility? Is the compostable plastic realistically tested to mimic the wide range of conditions that it may find itself in? It could end up anywhere, in a landfill tip or a stream or even in the sea.

European scientists are not convinced that we have the knowledge or the standards to give us confidence we are doing right.

My household produces at least a wheely-bin of ‘recyclables’ every fortnight. There’s only three of us in the house but everything comes uber-wrapped.

Back to the monthly magazine. I should get it online, so issue solved. But I like to read it with my breakfast. It isn’t the same with a cup of tea sat on a tablet.

The magazine says that the wrapper is “starch based and has zero polythene so it leaves no microplastics when composted”.

So that’s definitely an improvement. Or is it?

Is the starch imported in a dirty great big tanker driven across the oceans by fossil fuels?

OMG! Where do you start or even finish?

Friends of the Earth have tips on reducing plastics in our everyday, individual lives. But even they talk about going “plastic free” for only one day a week.

“Don’t give up” I tell myself “Our politicians are trying hard.” No sarcasm intended – I take my hat off to our politicians – they do a great job in impossible circumstances.

There were proposals to ban the distribution and/or sale of plastic straws, plastic – stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers.  It sounded a bit pathetic in the face of the tide of plastic we are producing.

The proposal now is for those responsible for the waste, manufacturers and producers, to be charged for recycling. This would be instead of the cost falling on our local authorities. The answer of course would be not to have so much wrapping in the first place but hitting producers in the pocket sounds like the right direction to go.

Cross fingers that there will be a genuine change.

Happy New Year!

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Responses to Beekeeper’s Notes; Compostable Plastic – Good or Bad?

  1. Pete Brayne Reply

    January 1, 2019 at 9:43 am

    My wife has introduced our household to ecobricks ( It’s amazing, and I mean really amazing, how much non-recyclable plastic we get through!

  2. David Rackham Reply

    January 1, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Recycling, landfill, incineration, whatever is best for disposal of rubbish one thing is for sure, we pay for it.

    Local authorities and producers / manufacturers are paid by us.

    The solution is simple, don’t buy anything wrapped in plastic.

    Happy new year people of the world, to all of your rubbish removalists recyclists.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      January 1, 2019 at 11:04 pm


      If only a multi-facet, multi-nation, global problem had a simple one dimension solution such as ‘don’t use plastic!’

      Which one for a start, don’t you need for some purpose everyday?

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