Compostable disposable nappies

What is the difference between degradable, biodegradable and compostable disposable nappies?

Don’t get sucked into greenwashing, look for the compostable standards.

The term biodegradable is the chemical process in which materials are transformed into natural substances such as water, carbon and biomass with the help of microorganisms. Everything is biodegradable to some degree, eventually. 

In Australia, there are no regulations around the term ‘bio’. A ‘bio’ product may break down quicker than a ‘degradable’ one; however, it still breaks down into tiny pieces of plastic that may never dissolve or disappear completely. Products and packaging labelled with the term ‘biodegradable’ does not have to comply with any type of criteria.1

What is a compostable product?

Compostable products are made from plant-based materials.

For products or packaging to be classified as compostable it has to biologically decompose and disintegrate in a composting system (under either commercial or home composting conditions) to set levels within a defined period of time. The compost must also meet specific quality criteria.

The majority of landfills will not compost waste.

Compostable standards

Compostable standards in Australia

  • For Commercial composting, it should say certified to Australian Standard AS4736 (Biodegradable plastics- Biodegradable plastics suitable for composting and other microbial treatment). A certified compostable product will have the leaf symbol on it, with the standard.
  • For Home composting it should say certified to Australian Standard AS 5810-2010 (Biodegradable plastics- Biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting).

Compostable standards in the UK

  • BS EN 13432/ EN 13432:2000 (Packaging. Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation. Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging).

Compostable standards in New Zealand

Currently, NZ doesn’t have a specific compostable standard of their own. Some companies in NZ are adopting international composting standards. Look for industrial vs home compostable standards and whether you have access to industrial compostable facilities.

References and further reading

  1. The Australasian Bioplastics Association <>.