Bioplastics: Not as Green as They Might Seem

You might think “What’s the matter with a little bioplastic mixed in with compost? So what if it takes a longer time to break down. It eventually will, right?” To shed some light on this, let’s look at the composting lifecycle. CERO Cooperative delivers food waste to local compost farms where it is carefully managed, turned, and composted in open-air windrows. Once finished, the compost is used by local farmers and landscaping companies to grow next year’s food and gardens.  The point of composting is to harness the carbon, nitrogen, and other valuable nutrients stored in our food waste, and recycle it into new vegetation rather than have it rot in landfills and generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Bioplastics don’t contribute to this goal, as they don’t have any significant nutritional value. Composting them simply dilutes the nutrients from the true food waste, or worse, leads to an ever growing heap of stubborn bioplastics that will not break down and can’t be returned to the earth as promised.

So what’s the solution? Ideally, it is to use reusable, washable cutlery and dishware whenever possible. When this isn’t possible and single-use items must be enlisted, those ‘green’ bioplastics might seem cool, but there are products out there that stand up better to consumer use, and also compost more reliably!

One such product is bagasse. Made from the fibrous material that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice, it holds up well to higher heats, while breaking down in as little as 3 months at industrial composting facilities. There are many food service products made from bagasse, such as these to-go clamshells.

Read the rest at the CERO blog


Go to the GEO front page