May 21, 2015

The Truth Inside Biodegradable Plastic Bags

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Written by: Recultured Team

Biodegradable and compostable products are everywhere these days, but these products are not always the great next step of the recycling movement many believe them to be. Most of us have shopped with one of these without realizing (some of us not realizing for months until we find the plastic shredded remains of one of these bags at the back of our closet.) Today I’ll tell you many more reasons why these bags are more trouble than they’re worth.

Not all biodegradable bags are created equal

The rate and extent to which these products degrade varies. There is currently no standard for how they must be manufactured or which types of materials they can be made out of. This means that products can be made with difficult to separate plastic linings and component layers that could contaminate the  but the lack of standardization is one of the reasons

Although many products make claims to the length of time required to break down, the truth is that it will depend largely on the environment that it is left to decompose in.

Environnment (landfills)

What about recycling?

Biodegradable plastics do not have their own category since they cannot be recycled currently.  They would be a garbage item.

Biodegradable ≠ Compostable

Why not just create a labeling system that will signify to the consumer products that will actually stand as entirely compostable? Apperently it already exists: the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)‘s Compostable Logo. Though the website notes that it is used across North America and in PEI, it doesn’t look very familiar to me. The lack of manufacturing regulation for biodegradable products has likely deterred many producers from going the full nine yards to completely compostable. Why put in the extra time and money developing a compostable product that can sport the BPI logo, when to consumers “biodegradable” and “industrally compostable” look just as good and sport their own eco-looking labels.


The FTC has detailed marketing guidelines for products promoted as ‘degradable.’ (from http://consumerist.com/2015/02/03/feds-warn-that-claims-of-biodegradable-dog-poop-bags-may-be-full-of-you-know/)

Metro Vancouver has banned the use of biodegradable bags used as liners in the municipal food waste bins, citing an uneven rate of decomposition and contamination when mixed with the compost. http://www.news1130.com/2015/01/09/compostable-and-biodegradable-bags-not-allowed-in-metro-vancouver-food-scraps-bins/

About the Author

Recultured Team
Recultured Team
This is where you'll find the blog posts that the team has contributed to collectively! What team? Wildcats! -Nope, wrong team. Recultured!

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