Composting at home can be a messy business. To help keep the process clean, or just to have the convenience of a plastic bag without its environmental impact, many people use compostable or biodegradable bags.
“Anything in a landfill, whether it’s biodegradable, or compostable, certified or not, won’t break down,”. “It’s not a controlled environment. So even something like an apple can take decades to decompose.” Marika Smith, executive director of the Compost Education Centre.
A key element of compost is heat, and home composting methods don’t get hot enough to break down bags meant for a commercial composting facility, Smith says. Consumers should read the package to see if they are buying an item meant for a home or a commercial compost, she says.
Even in a commercial composting facility, not everything will break down. Consumers who use a such a service should look for products made with the ASTM D6400, BPI or EN13432 standard, says Jason Adams, owner of reFUSE, a composting collection and recycling company. These bags break down well at its commercial composting facility. Other products without such certifications may not live up to the hype.
Biodegradable and compostable plastics are causing a problem for recyclers. If mixed with traditional soft-plastic recycling, these plastics may contaminate the lot, which means bags that typically would be recycled are being thrown out.
“A lot people go out and buy these products, thinking that they’re doing good, but if all of this stuff is going into the garbage — or if you haven’t checked if the bag can be used in a home compost — it’s not doing much good, and it’s possibly costing you more,”
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