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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

‘Compostable’ Plastic Claims Break Down

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, green living, sustainable business, composting, plastic, biodedegradable, bioplastics, compostable plastics, plastic bags, Mother Earth News, Terrain, Keith Goetzman,

Bioplastics chart“Compostable” plastics are being marketed as a green solution to waste and pollution—but our sister magazine Mother Earth News found in an independent test of “bioplastic” bags that many of them don’t live up to their claims. Of five bags tested, none of them were completely compostable in home composting conditions.

Mother Earth News commissioned the test from Woods End Laboratories, which specializes in evaluating composts, soils, and organic wastes. The lab found that some of the bags did break down under high under higher temperatures resembling commercial composting operations—but this is seldom spelled out in marketing claims. Writes editor Cheryl Long:

Check out the full bioplastic bag report online (pdf) and look for an article about it in the June-July issue of Mother Earth News, which goes on sale May 25.

Even though some bioplastics can break down in larger operations, cities that are pioneering municipal composting programs have had problems with the materials, reports the Northern California environmental magazine Terrain. In October 2009, a group touring Berkeley, California’s municipal food and yard waste composting site

Source: Mother Earth News, Terrain