Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Conveniently chipper

I can’t resist another comment about the chip bag controversy. It is just too ripe! According to Green Biz contributor Suzanne Shelton’s EcoPulse survey, 65% of Americans are looking for greener products, while 76% of Americans will always choose their own convenience over the environment. Hmm, no wonder the chip bag story won’t die - it wraps up our environmental apathy in a nutshell.

However, a deeper look at this issue shows that even if all SunChips bags were still being made with biodegradable materials, consumers wouldn’t be placing them in a proper compost pile anyway. That’s because most compostable packaging that has been on the market in the US up until now has been designed to biodegrade in an industrial compost facility (of which there are few and far between depending on where you live). Industrial compost facilities reach much higher temperatures more quickly and are more consistently rotated than home compost piles. Bioplastic and starch-based packaging is usually designed to last until it should reach this type of controlled environment. That’s not to say these packages won’t ever biodegrade in your home compost pile, but it’s not going to do so as quickly as your vegetable peels.

The good news is that the FTC in the past 2 years has been enforcing its guidelines on environmental marketing claims such as “biodegradable” and “compostable” (and just release updated guidelines as well). This means that if you do choose a product with compostable packaging, you should (soon!) be seeing clear information on exactly how long and where that package will effectively biodegrade into usable compost.

Now you can get back to eating your chips!

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