The rise of compostable packaging has been hard to ignore. From takeout containers to utensils, many food-service companies are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon. However, while these products claim to be better for the environment, the reality is far from ideal.
In theory, compostable plastic seems like a great alternative to traditional plastic. It’s made from plant sugars and degrades over time, mimicking the natural process of decomposition. Yet, the truth is that compostable plastic is not as eco-friendly as it appears. The majority of these products end up in regular trash bins because the infrastructure for composting is severely lacking in the United States.
Is compostable plastic really environmentally friendly?
Biodegradable and compostable plastics can be a good solution as an alternative to traditional fossil-based, non-biodegradable plastics.
Moreover, compostable plastic doesn’t break down easily. It requires specific conditions and specialized composting facilities, which are not readily accessible to the average consumer. Home compost piles are not the same as industrial facilities. Fruit and vegetables break down quickly, while meat takes longer. Eventually, compostable plastic should also break down, but in a study, bags buried for three years were still strong enough to hold groceries. Even when submerged in seawater, a type of compostable plastic showed no signs of degradation after 14 months. In fact, some compostable plastics remain intact for years in soil or seawater.
Why is Compostable Plastic Not Used to Make Compost?
While food waste and yard trimmings enrich compost with essential nutrients, compostable packaging and bioplastics fail to contribute anything valuable. Shockingly, most commercial composting facilities refuse to accept compostable bio-plastics.
So, while the concept of compostable plastic may sound promising, it is ultimately just another form of plastic pollution. Until there is a comprehensive composting infrastructure in place, these products are nothing more than greenwashing tactics used by companies to appear environmentally conscious.
It’s time to look beyond the compostable plastic hype and seek sustainable alternatives that truly make a difference in reducing plastic waste.