Walk into any supermarket or retail store and the chances are you will see a variety of bags and packaging marked as compostable.
For eco-friendly shoppers the world over, this can only be a good thing. After all, we all know that single-use plastics are the scourge of the environment, and to be avoided at all costs.
But are many from the items being branded as compostable actually good for the environment? Or is it the case that many of us are using them incorrectly? Perhaps we assume they are home compostable, when the particular reality is they are only compostable in larger facilities. And do they really harmlessly break down, or is this another example of greenwashing in action?
According to research conducted by packaging platform Sourceful, just 3% associated with compostable packaging in the U. K. ends up within a proper composting facility.
Instead, it claimed a lack of composting infrastructure means 54% goes to landfill and the remaining 43% gets incinerated.
Sourceful’s CEO and co-founder, Wing Chan, said the particular practical reality of compostables “does not reflect the narrative used to market them”.
“We recommend avoiding and looking to switch out where possible in your supply chain, ” added Chan.
Dr . Tarun Anumol, from Agilent Technologies, said plastic bags are commonly made from the polymer polyethylene, which depending on the conditions can take up to 1, 000 years to fully crack down within the soil.
And when they perform start to disintegrate, Anumol added they can frequently break down into micro-plastics, which usually research shows can contaminate the soil, be absorbed into crops or pollute nearby water streams.
Once in the drinking water supply or food chain, they could then be ingested by humans and enter the bloodstream.
In addition, he said microplastics may also attach to other pollutants and even increase the toxicity of other substances in the ground, like chromium and some other organic contaminants.
In terms of compostable bags, he said numerous of them take between 10 plus 60 days to degrade within the dirt, depending upon favorable environment conditions.
He said in some instances, home composting does not necessarily provide the right environmental problems for decomposition, so the bags may “stick around for a lot longer” but still not as long because traditional plastics.
Anumol stated it was important that the right disposal systems are within place to manage compostable hand bags, but this individual added this is really a “teething issue” that will certainly be sorted out over the next few years.
But he mentioned it was still vital that soil is regularly tested and analysed with regard to possible contaminants to ensure safe and fertile soil.
Sarah Paiji Yoo, the TOP DOG and co-founder of the environmentally friendly cleaning product firm Blueland said ultimately, she believes compostable bags are still better than virgin plastic luggage, because these people are not really made with petroleum-based plastic material.
But she added compostable bags need to become industrially composted to truly effectively degrade.
“Compostable bags that are put in the trash can last in a landfill for tens and hundreds of many years since objects in landfills, ” the girl added.
The CEO of plant-based fiber packaging manufacturer Footprint, Troy Swope said he feels we are “not quite there yet” along with compostable bioplastics.
“When all of us started Footprint, we considered bioplastics, but ultimately we all found the particular best solution for the planet has been a nature-based solution, ” Swope told Forbes.
Swope said they use recycled cardboard, paper and other natural substances, like algae to develop a fiber, which in turn, can be utilized to create biodegradable product packaging.
“We want solutions that nature may digest, so that if it got into a river plus into your ocean, it would split down will not harm sea life, ” he additional.
And Graham Rihn, founder and CEO of the particular waste management platform RoadRunner Recycling, stated it had been essential to draw a distinction between biodegradable bag liners and compostable liners, which he added are designed for a very specific function.
Ultimately, he or she said if there is compost service available, after that “you should absolutely use compostable products, if at all possible”, because it may leave the far smaller footprint on the atmosphere than the alternative.