Compostable Plastics

We have cut down on our plastic bag use so much that we were begging people to give us some of their collection, in order to throw out the garbage we do produce, and line the green bin with (city wide compost). My thinking was that at least we were giving the bags another life or two before landfill. I also wasn’t entirely convinced by the compostable corn plastic bags. I am now. I read an article (unfortunately I can’t remember where and I can’t find them again) about it and discovered they were designed specifically for landfills. My thought before was that even if they were biodegradable, it would take forever in a landfill condition, but I was wrong. They were designed to break down in exactly that situation, and they do so quickly (within a month, I think). That seems way better than giving a plastic bag one more use before it sits in landfill forever and ever. I wish I could find the article so I knew if there was a specific brand I should be getting. May be they are not all like that?

Anyhow I picked up 20 Biosaks today, so we will no longer have to beg our friends and family for part of their bag collections. The cool part is that it was getting harder and harder to get bags because everyone is using cloth now! Yaaaaay!

PS. I also added some photos to the photo page.

PPS. Still no baby.

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8 Comments

Filed under household goods, shopping(not groceries)

8 responses to “Compostable Plastics

  1. sweetdumpling

    really? still no baby???

    we have some of those because we are completely out of plastic bags from the store. apperently we’re getting much better with bringing our own. (although i do have to get better at bringing the smaller ones for produce).
    the only problem is that the ones i got are too small for the kitchen garbage. ah well, small problem i guess!!

  2. Radical Garbage Man

    I believe you have been duped. I am unwilling to believe that corn-based bags will break down in the landfill when banana peels won’t.

    That doesn’t make them just as bad as plastic, however, as they are at least manufactured from a renewable resource. Just don’t kid yourself that they will decompose in an anaerobic, moisture controlled, lightless environment; nothing does.

  3. This is not the article, but here are a few links that talk about how the bags work.
    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/publications/waste/degradables/biodegradable/chapter7.html
    http://www.elldex.com/packaging/kiwigreen.asp#6.%20How%20long%20does%20it%20take%20the%20bags%20to%20degrade I know you can’t believe everything you read, but I don’t think I’ve been duped. I’ll do some experimenting myself and get back to you.
    I did find lots of sites that say these bags are not the answer and that they are being hyped up. I agree that it is far better to use cloth bags. Of course I would prefer to send nothing to landfill. We do create some waste now though (currently about a grocery sized bag every three weeks) and the garbage and compost collectors prefer if the waste is in some sort of bag. So for that purpose, I thought it would be better to use biodegradable ones than reused non biodegradable ones.
    I’m thinking of it as a last resort, like recycling, not as a replacement. We will use them sparingly.

  4. Beverley

    I love your site! It is very inspiring… Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m thinking that it could expand.. Trashless “enter your town name here”.. all over the world!!! Imagine the possibilities.

    Also, I’m a mom, so I’m eagerly awaiting news of the new baby.

    Thanks for sharing!
    I wish you the best of luck.
    b.

  5. I wish it could expand too. I would love it if other people did one for their city- I would definitely link to it. I am also open to tips about Toronto- my radius of travel within the city is pretty small.

  6. Radical Garbage Man

    The information on one of these websites is confusing at best and more likely intentionally misleading.

    The “Kiwigreen” bags are NOT biodegradable. They are “made from “normal” polyethylene – the same as most bags – but also contain a percentage by weight of a proprietary patented oxo-biodegradable additive known as TDPA (totally degradable plastic additives).” These bags will “break down” and thus “degrade” but not into natural materials. They will degrade into microscopic fragments of polyethelene. Thus, while they will eventually become invisible, their “non-toxic biomass” residue is plastic, plain and simple. There are lots of similar products out on the market today with “green” marketing but they are scams.

    The Australian website suffers from a confusing conflation of different meanings for the term “plastic.” In the discussion of degradation in a landfill, the Japanese study cited was examining the persistence of LDPE in bioactive soil. This study is simply NOT germane. First off, we’re interested in the biodegradation of corn-based polymers, not LDPE. Secondly, modern landfills are NOT bioactive soils. The study shows that after 40 years’ burial in fertile, living, plants-growing-in-it dirt, it partially dissolved.

    The persistence of true bioplastics in modern landfills are best described later in that section: “Biodegradable plastics will not degrade appreciably in a dry landfill.”

    For an expert opinion on biodegradation in landfills, see this recent piece:
    http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/wonder/justask/index.php?ntid=248873

    The good news is that the brand of bags you bought are genuinely biodegradable. The .pdf info sheet you link to labels them as “compostable” which means they will break down into organic matter, not just little pieces of plastic. However, even they will not break down in landfills. They are specifically designed to be composted, which I understand, you can do by putting in the yard waste/organics bin in Toronto.

  7. Thanks. Yes, and that’s where they are going mostly is to the industrial compost, so I suppose that’s good. If they are still left after it is heated and mulched they will just end up in landfill though, which is why I originally wasn’t sold on them. Hmmm confusing. Anyway, thanks for your help.

  8. Radical Garbage Man

    Happy to help. It really gets my goat when companies use green marketing to convince passionate, well-meaning people that we’re doing something really good for the Earth when it’s just not true. It’s hard enough to be conscious of the environmental impact of the choices we make without having misinformation and half-truth clouding our thinking.

    I really appreciate the writing you’ve done on reducing waste and will be recommending including your blog as part of our municipality’s waste reduction public education plan. Keep up the good work!

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