It’s been all over the news… complaints about Sun Chips compostable packaging. Brian Williams of NBC news said the packaging is about as loud as a passing freight train; many others agree and PepsiCo has pulled most of that packaging.
But what they didn’t tell you is a better reason why the packaging should have been pulled anyway.
The bag in controversy is “compostable”. To compost, a substance has to pass a compostable standard (D6400) and be able to break down (decay) in an active compost pile within a set time frame. How many people do you know who have and maintain a compost pile in their back yard? I live in the country and still do not know anyone who does.
To compost is not easy; the temperature, oxygen and humidity have to be in acceptable ranges, and the compost material has to be physically turned on a rigid schedule. It requires time and management – not something most people are willing to do.
Only a few municipalities in the US have composting facilities. They can be counted on one hand. San Francisco is one, and that is why the city can legitimately ban non-compostable packaging. But, if you do not have a means to compost, what then? It’s simple…you just create more trash for the land fill, and the whole biodegradable packaging concept backfires. The problem is that “compostable” is not “recyclable”.
Biodegradable packaging of the type which was used in the Sun Chips packaging is not easily recycled. But whether the base material is PLA (Poly Lactic Acid, a vegetable base) or even cellulose (a wood base), neither of these are recyclable because they are not compatible with the majority of other commonly recyclable plastics. Most all recycling is mixed stream and is sorted by paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, etc. at the recycling facility. The problem with PLA is that it is not compatible with other plastics such as PE (Poly Ethylene) and PP (Poly Propylene). In fact, PLA is recyclable only with other PLA products, which are scarce.
The point is this: In order for packaging to be green it should be reusable. How do you reuse a bag that chips came in? Unless you have some creative idea in mind for it, you (should be able to) toss it into the recycling bin. The answer to reusability on thinner gauge plastics is recycling. It’s what we have been saying all along, but you won’t hear it from PepsiCo or others because it is not politically correct. But it is the truth.