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What Everyone Should Know About Compostable Plastics

Finding ways to avoid using plastic products and contributing to the mounting amount of plastic garbage that ends up in our landfills and oceans, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is becoming more and more popular.

While some choose zero waste, others search for environmentally acceptable plastic substitutes for common items, like a biodegradable phone cover. Products composed of compostable or biodegradable materials are one of these choices.

Although there is still a lot of misconception about "greener" plastic items, biodegradable and compostable polymers are not brand-new substitutes for conventional petroleum-based plastics.

Here are a few things you should know about compostable plastics that can help you choose the right items and dispose of them properly, similar to the education required to properly sort recyclables (which, let's face it, can STILL be fairly complex).

Biodegradable Plastic DOES NOT EQUAL Compostable Plastic

And the distinction is significant.

A material is said to be biodegradable if it can decompose with the aid of microbes. There is no time restriction established for when a product must degrade in order to be called a biodegradable plastic, and these plastics CAN leave harmful residue behind.

The term "compostable" describes a substance that can decompose at the same rate as cellulose into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass. Compostable plastic MUST LEAVE NO TOXIC MATERIAL BEHIND when it breaks down and blends in with the compost.

This indicates that compostable plastic decomposes to a degree where it can sustain plant growth. Pretty amazing, no?

Compostable plastic WILL NOT biodegrade in a landfill

The idea of producing and using biodegradable and compostable plastics in the first place is defeated when a "green" plastic product is thrown into a landfill.

Many people believe that it will at least ultimately fail, but...actually, no, it probably won't.

Unfortunately, landfills often enclose waste and deprive it of the air, moisture, and sunlight these specific plastics require to degrade efficiently.

You are responsible for ensuring that any compostable plastics you purchase are used in a composting setting.

Biodegradable and compostable plastics DO NOT mix with recyclable plastics

We've already lectured you about not throwing compostable plastic in the trash, but keep in mind that the same rule applies to the blue bin. This could result in the recycling facility having to take an unnecessary extra step to separate recyclable plastics from bioplastics or even contaminate the recycled materials, which would again negate the entire aim of both ecologically benign projects.

Compost your compostables, which is why precise labelling is so important!

Not all biodegradable and bioplastics are free of phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA)

When most people read the word "bio," they immediately think of "natural" and "safe." But additional testing to make sure a bioplastic is free of dangerous compounds like lead, cadmium, BPA, and phthalates is how safe or non-toxic plastics are identified.

Another situation where it's vital to read the small print is this one.

In a home composting setting, some plastics that are compostable will decompose.

Timing is the primary distinction. Contents can decompose more quickly in an industrial composting setting because the piles are frequently turned over, the materials are frequently ground, and the temperatures are higher. A compostable takeaway container will not decompose at the same rate as a compostable utensil since the rate at which a compostable plastic breaks down also relies on the thickness of the product.

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