1) Compostable plastics and Biodegradable plastics are not the same
The terms compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably and inaccurately, while both are excellent solutions to conventional plastics, they have different far different methods of breaking down materials. Biodegradable plastics break down anaerobically in a conventional landfill with microorganisms present and often have varying time frames of when the material will completely decompose. While, compostable refers to a material capable of breaking down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as cellulose when placed in an industrial compost facility. Compostable plastic must also disintegrate and become indistinguishable in the compost. Meaning that compostable plastic when decomposed has the capacity to support plant growth.
2) Compostable plastics are derived from renewable materials
Compostable plastics are derived from renewable materials such as starch (corn, potato, and tapioca), cellulose, soy protein, and lactic acid. These materials are not harmful in production and decompose back into carbon dioxide, water, or biomass when composted in an industrial compost facility.
3) Bioplastics, such as compostable plastics, have the potential to bring about massive environmental impact
Compostable plastics ‘’hold the potential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, foster the development of more sustainable products, and increase the diversion of food waste from landfills’’ according to. Composting Council. With the 8.3 Billion metric tons of plastic produced by humans, it is unfavorable that compostable plastics comprise only 1% of this immense waste. However, consumer interest, sustainability commitments and social responsibility have given way to monumental growth of compostable plastics and there is optimism that this statistic will escalate alongside increased demand and profitability.
4) How does compostable plastic decompose?
Composting Council explains that compostable plastic ‘’undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and that leaves no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue’’. It is important to note that compostable plastics need to be disposed of in an industiral compost facility, otherwise they will not decompose.
5) How long does it take for compostable plastics to complete degrade?
In commercial composting facilities, compostable plastics experience perfect conditions which allow for an expeditious and assured degradation. Compost facilities provide higher temperatures allowing for efficient degradation in approximately 90-180 days which meets international standards that require the material to decompose at least 60% in 180 days to be able to carry the valuable title of compostable.
6) What do compostable plastics need to degrade?
According to the EPA, ‘’Composting utilizes microorganisms, heat and humidity to yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass that is similar in characteristic to the rest of the finished compost product’’. With these characteristics the item will decompose and become available to support plant growth. These conditions are only present in commercial and industrial compost facilities.
7) If a product is compostable, can I put it in my home compost?
No. Compostable plastics are only able to decomposein an industrial, commercial composting facility where the conditions are accurately measured to ensure a complete and swift breakdown process. Many cities have established residential compost collection programs for efficient and responsible disposing of compostable items.