One of the newest trends in marketing appears to be the claim that a product or its packaging is compostable. You’ve probably seen it at the grocery store — buy these chips and, when you’re done, just toss the bag in your compost bin. Supposedly, the bag will decompose completely. But the question is, are these materials really going to break down in your home compost bin or are these claims just green-washing?
Mother Earth News actually put this question to the test and the results did not surprise Recycla at all. Different kinds of plastic bags were composted for 25 weeks in two different composting settings. One setting simulated commercial, large-scale composting conditions at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The other simulated conditions in average home compost at 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The results? None of the bags fully broke down in normal home composting conditions, but three did decompose in the higher temperatures found in industrial composting.
Recycla has long been skeptical about “compostable plastic.” Last summer, she tried an experiment of her own. She bought mushrooms that were packaged in containers that were labeled as being compostable. Around the same time, she bought tooth flossers (dental floss that comes on those plastic picks) that were also supposed to decompose in a compost bin.
Recycla has two different black plastic compost bins in two different locations in her garden. She put a mushroom container and some flossers in each and buried them deep. She maintained her compost as usual — adding more stuff and turning the compost regularly. After nine months, she checked her compost bins this past weekend and found lots of lovely compost, as well as two not-at-all-decomposed mushroom containers and a hand full of also not-decomposed flossers.
Clearly, compostable plastics are just hype. If you want truly compostable packaging, look at paper and cardboard, which will decompose. Just tear them up into smaller pieces and toss them in with your compost.
Or, go for no packaging at all. Recycla urges you to buy some cloth produce bags to use when you go shopping. She has a dozen or so, which she fills with apples, potatoes, lettuce, and other loose veggies, instead of buying them wrapped in plastic. You can find them at Eco Bags and Etsy.
Tell the Eco Women: How green are you? Are you composting? Are you using cloth shopping bags and/or produce bags?