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.