Tag Archives: bpi

Getting Pickier with Plastics

After reading a fair bit of material regarding microplastics in compost, I’ve decided to become more strict on what I contribute to my compost piles.

Up to this point, I’ve been experimenting with how much of an item will compost, even when I’m aware it contains some plastic.

For example, I’ve added quite a few ice cream cartons, chinese food containers, paper cups, and fast food waste that I dumpstered from several establishments.

The plan has been to pick out the plastic skeletons that remain when I screen my finished product…I’ve been doing that for a long time, with the most common example being the occasional produce sticker that I missed.

What’s the big deal anyway?  I’m not going to use my compost to grow anything at this point… I’d rather just use it for horticultural purposes.

If I throw “away” the chinese food carton, it gets landfilled and does nothing forever.

While it’s not as visibly obvious as pieces of styrofoam floating in a puddle or plastic bags dancing with the wind, microplastics in the environment are contaminating everything.

 A 2011 study by Woods End Laboratory states that all plastic-coated paper products (single or double coated) leave a trail of microplastics, whether the lining is made from LDPE, PET or clay with binders.

I screen plastic bits from my compost with a 1/4″ sieve, but there’s no way I will be able to remove strands of polyethylene that are 100 microns in size.

I never thought about it like that, but it makes perfect sense and I wish I would have realized this sooner.

Keep plastic coated paper products out of your compost.

The only exceptions are products certified as compostable.

Composting facilties need to ban all plastic coated paper products from entering their faciltiies, which can’t be easy.

Between the plastic garbage gyres, the plastic bag dilemma and now this huge contributor to plastics working their way up the food chain, we have a very serious problem to solve.

What’s the Point of Biodegradable Plastics?

If you’re checking out this website, chances are good you’ve heard of bioplastics: “biodegradable”, “compostable”, and the worst of all, “degradable”.

Every time I get a product marketing itself as any of these terms, I feel obligated to hold onto it.  I have a few garbage bags, some cups, and utensils all claiming this other form of degradation.

I need to ask, how much do you trust these products to be non-toxic and actually doing what they say?  What’s tough about this is that the average (and expert) composter at home isn’t going to have an easy time composting any of these bioplastic products…remember the Sun Chips bag?

If I tried to compost these items in the largest compost heap, I couldn’t get temperatures to stay high enough for long enough to take care of these…how do I know?  Commercial composting facilities don’t like receiving this stuff, either.  It definitely takes more than one full cycle to get them reduced.

I find it strange that this product exists, as landfills aren’t designed to have air flowing through them, but actually the opposite.  Therefore these products shouldn’t show any real results, right?  Let’s not forget about cost.

I never understand how bioplastic cups are still around in the marketplace.  They cost a lot more than the standard cup, and most of them are still plastic underneath.  If they’re something better than oxo-biodegradable (plastic + heavy metals), they still biodegrade at a high cost in comparison to paper cups.  This exact comparison is why styrofoam cups still fly off the shelves- they’re cheaper than paper cups (although they will never degrade and don’t infuse oxygen into landfills…ha!).

Therefore, if you’re trying to start a composting program where you work, remember that you don’t need to buy all the compostable products out there.  Paper cups are definitely compostable, way cheaper than compostable cups (which are often a sham anyway), and are often cheaper than plastic cups.  Did I mention they don’t leach?

While paper production isn’t a perfect process, I’d still choose it over any bioplastic product whenever possible.