Packaging 101: The Complete Guide

Britt Martin, Arka's Partnerships lead, blends e-commerce expertise with sustainability advocacy, nurturing startups as a Founder in Residence at NYU.

The Key Pros and Cons of Compostable Packaging

Using compostable packaging is a fantastic way to demonstrate environmental responsibility. Let’s explore the essential benefits and limitations of compostable packaging in order to gain a deeper understanding.

Advantages of Compostable Packaging

Why use compostable packaging? Well, there are plenty of benefits that come with this sustainable choice.

Compostable packaging reduces environmental impact. Waste (and poor waste management methods) are highly polluting and damaging to the planet. Many non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste and materials are dumped in landfill sites and oceans yearly, threatening wildlife, ecosystems, and human health.

By using compostable packaging, you can reduce the impact on the environment. Compostable packaging is made from renewable and organic materials and quickly breaks down without leaving toxic residue.

Also, compostable packaging minimizes waste. It is made from plant-based, renewable, and recyclable materials, reducing waste and the amount of waste going to landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Compostable promotes a circular economy. Compostable packaging can be reused and recycled as compost and converted into organic fertilizers for the soil. Overall, this reduces carbon footprints.

Challenges and Limitations of Compostable Packaging

Even though plenty of benefits come with using compostable packaging, there are some drawbacks as well.

In some situations, the infrastructure for composting might not be available. Not everyone is in a position to use or reuse compostable packaging, which means that they can’t take advantage of the circular economy and waste reduction perks. Also, some businesses may not have the ability or innovative technology to use or reuse compostable packaging.

compostable package

Credits: Mildlee

When using compostable packaging, there are costs to consider as well. While some people may not have the facilities to use or reuse compostable packaging, some may find investing in compostable packaging, facilities, resources, and overall maintenance too expensive. Additionally, a lack of consumer awareness and education could cause people to take incorrect steps when using and reusing compostable packaging.

Another issue is cross-contamination. Compostable materials can become contaminated with non-compostable items such as glass, textiles, and plastics when accidentally mixed together in a compost pile, reducing the quality of the compost and making it unsuitable for use.

Regulations and Standards

With sustainability a huge and meaningful topic these days, there’s more awareness and changes in brands and consumer behavior because many people want to be more eco-friendly and do their part for the planet.

Unfortunately, this means that some brands are greenwashing, which is the practice of making unsubstantiated claims that products and services are environmentally friendly when they aren’t.

When greenwashing occurs, it’s confusing. And if you’re interested in using compostable packing, you might think, “How do I know if the packaging is compostable?” This is why compostable certification is important. It ensures that products are correctly labeled as compostable.

In North America, the BPI organization advocates for compostable packaging and sustainable solutions, and it provides certification for compostable materials. According to the US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) sets definitions and standards. And the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for enforcement against false or deceptive product labeling.

Additionally, Arka’s products are FSC-certified. FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. You can also check Arka’s premium custom mailer boxes and shipping boxes that help brands increase their impact and attract more customers.

compostable packaging

Credits: Grupo Seripafer

Applications of Compostable Packaging

Now that you got all the answers to the “what is compostable packaging” question, let’s discuss how it is used in different industries.

Compostable packaging has many uses, and it is frequently applied and used across numerous industries:

• Food and beverage industry: Compostable packaging for food and beverages is good because fewer resources are needed to create it, and it’s easier to store and pack - reducing transportation costs and helping food last.

E-commerce and shipping: Some e-commerce and shipping businesses use compostable packaging to be more sustainable, reduce their carbon footprints, and provide eco-friendly and recyclable packaging that consumers can reuse or compost at the end of their life-cycle.

Personal care and cosmetics: The beauty industry can reduce its environmental impact by using compostable packaging for personal care products and cosmetics. There are plenty of sustainable beauty brands out on the market that are doing their part by using compostable packaging that can break down quickly after use, such as pouches and cardboard. You can check Arka’s custom cosmetic boxes that are eco-friendly and have prime quality.

5 Types of Compostable Packaging Materials


Paper is still commonly used for many products, such as newspapers, magazines, and notepads. But thanks to compostable paper, it can be added to your compost pile and break down effectively without leaving toxic chemicals behind.

paper material for packaging

Credits: Kelly Sikkema


Bioplastic is derived from biological substances, making it a better alternative to conventional plastic materials. Also, unlike plastics, bioplastics are biodegradable or compostable, meaning they’re much kinder to the soil.

Bioplastic material for packaging

Credits: Emma Sicher


Cardboard is one of the best materials to use because it is recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable. Compostable cardboard can be added to the compost heap in your garden and will naturally decompose.

White box carboard

Credits: Kelli McClintock

Plant-Based Materials

Some plant-based materials are naturally compostable and will dissolve effectively if added to a compost heap, not thrown into waste or landfills. This is because plant-based materials are compostable in certain conditions.

Some examples of plant-based materials include corn, starch, seaweed, sugarcane, tree pulp, and bamboo.

what is compostable packaging

Credits: Alexander Rotker

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers are naturally compostable and easily break down. This is because their cellulose-based chemical structures are biodegradable. Examples of natural fibers include jute, hemp, and cotton.

natural fibers material for packaging

Credits: Julia Lim

Composting Process for Compostable Packaging

If you want to know what to do with compostable packaging, following the right process is important. Here’s how to dispose of compostable packaging.

• Many areas will accept recyclable compostable. Check your local council or authority to check collection days for this purpose.

• You can add compostable packaging to the pile if you have a compost heap. It will go through the degradation process, which normally takes 12 weeks on average.

• During the decomposition process, microbial activity occurs. This is where carbon dioxide is trapped within the soil while simultaneously nutrient cycling and soaking up organic and plant-based residue.

• This also triggers humification, where organic materials in the soil break down, forming humus, defined as the organic component of soil formed by soil microorganisms.

Industrial Composting

For large-scale, production-type businesses, industrial composting is an option and a way to decompose large items. There are different industrial composting techniques that you can implement in your business.

Windrow composting piles garden waste and organic matter into long rows. Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting involves using underground fans to decompose organic material by controlling carbon levels and enabling microbes to speed up the breakdown process.

In-vessel composting, also known as tunnel composting, is an industrial composting process where aerobic processes break down organic matter to produce organic materials to help add nutrients to the soil.

whats compostable packaging

Credits: CURVD®

Home Composting

Once you know how, it’s easy to compost at home, and it’s an environmentally-friendly way to dispose of waste. You can buy a compost kit or set up a compost bin in your garden to get started.

Add grass cuttings, vegetable scraps, fruit peels, cardboard, loose tea, eggshells, and other compostable packaging to your compost heap. Home composting takes time, from a few months to a few years. But the process is worth it because once composting is complete, you can use the compost in your garden to add nutrients to the soil.

Soil Enrichment and Carbon Sequestration

Composting is great for the soil and better for the planet. Compost leaves no toxins in the soil but adds nutrients to it, and it can be used as soil or plant fertilizer. Composting also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere through a process known as carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration catches and stores carbon dioxide, which helps to reduce carbon emissions.

Final Thoughts

We are glad you have answers to the "what is compostable packaging" common question. Overall, using compostable packing is an effective, sustainable solution and a good way to be good to the environment and do your part for the planet, and with Arka, you can design eco-friendly and sustainable custom packaging for you.

FAQs about Compostable Packaging

How long does compostable packaging take to decompose?

Compostable packaging takes three months to dissolve, depending on the type of material.

Is compostable packaging as durable as traditional packaging?

Compostable packaging is as durable as traditional packaging, but because of the materials used, it breaks down faster and doesn’t leave any toxic residue behind.

Can I use compostable packaging for hot liquids?

Yes! Many brands use compostable packaging for hot beverages, so fill up with your drink of choice - tea, coffee, hot chocolate, herbal tea, and other hot beverages.

Is compostable packaging the same as biodegradable packaging?

There may be some overlap and work similarly, but compostable and biodegradable packaging are not the same terms. Biodegradable materials simply break down, while compostable packaging decomposes but leaves nutrients behind to help boost and enrich the soil so new plants can grow.

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