Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Scoop on Compostable Bags

The big news is that Sun Chips will now come in a compostable bag. They call them "earth-friendly bags." But I question if disposable packaging of any kind can really be earth friendly. The article in the Globe suggests that the bags "can be thrown into the backyard composter or municipal green bins." Well, not so fast....

This site makes it clear that compostable bags can only be composted in an industrial facility, not in your backyard.  It has to be heated to fully break down.  That's a problem because in Waterloo, we can't put compostable bags in the green bins.  They site three reasons:

* Different ‘biodegradable’ bags compost at different rates. This can create issues with the quality of the end product.
* Organics need oxygen to compost properly. Wrapping in plastic prevents the microbes from getting much needed oxygen and contributes to odour issues.
* Our processor composts in windrows outside. Once the organics are ground up, plastics can blow around and cause litter issues.

The last newsletter I got from the region actually suggested that people use disposable coffee cups to scoop up dog poop rather than use the compostable bags.  It's odd because I've been told by some workers there that coffee cups aren't allowed in the green bins because they have plastic between layers of paper.  And it's troubling that the waste management people aren't on the travel mug bandwagon yet.  

On the one hand, that they can make a plastic-like substance from corn is pretty cool.  Check out the video here.   But on the other hand, I'm not entirely convinced there's not some petroleum in there somewhere helping it all bond together.  They mention in the film it just takes corn, citric acid, and some "secret ingredients."  Hmmm.  Some compostable bags have only 6-9% corn starch.  I can only assume the rest is oil based.  They degrade better that other bags, but they don't truly compost.  I wouldn't want them in my garden.  Little bits of plastic particles that float around from the degradation process get into our food and our lungs, and they're really harmful to us.

Another problem is that corn starch in the bags wrecks the recycling process if the bags accidentally get put in with other plastic bags which are recyclable (yet rarely recycled).  

But the biggest problem is that if people like this idea, they'll stop trying to avoid buying packaging with their food.  It's a bit of a red herring I'm afraid. 

1 comment:

NYC Air Conditioners said...

It is true that the impact on the price is going to be is going to increase to an extent...but there is no other way out...for a better and healthy life this is the price that has to be paid.