Ask Pablo: Are Sun Chips Bags Really Compostable?


Image via Sunchips
Dear Pablo: Are those noisy Sun Chips bags really compostable? I am really hesitant to throw any compostable packaging into my compost pile.

Like any new product offering compostable packaging will need some time to reach perfection. While it helps fund R&D; into next generation compostable packaging and shows strong environmental leadership, compostable Sun Chips bags may have done for compostable consumer goods packaging what those dim flickering spiral bulbs did for CFLs in the early 1990's. Sun Chips recently reluctantly decided to pull its innovative new packaging from the shelves, except in specially-marked 10.5 ounce packages, citing complaints about the excessive noise level of the bags crinkling. But some suspect that there may be more to the decision.

In the December 2010 edition of Consumer Reports Magazine a 13-week composting study was revealed in which the Sun Chips bag did virtually nothing resembling composting. "The items in contact with the bag composted nicely," said Consumer Reports, but the bag itself did not, as can be seen in the photo in the link above. "It might decay in an 'industrial' compost pile," Consumer Reports continued, "though we can't say for sure."

Aside from the duration we know little about the exact parameters of the Consumer Reports study so it is difficult to determine if they followed the guidelines published by Sun Chips which claim that the bag will break down in "about 14 weeks" if a temperature of 130° F is maintained. The bags were certified as compostable by the Biodegradeable Products Institute but perhaps the materials used have not reached a level of maturity where they are appropriate for the mass market and out backyard compost piles.

What's Your Experience With Compostable Packaging?
Have you tried composting Sun Chips or other "compostable" packaging at home? Write a comment below and let us know what you think!

Pablo Päster is a weekly columnist for TreeHugger.com and Principal Environmental Consultant at Hara Software. Send your questions to Pablo(at)TreeHugger.com or submit the via this form and connect to his RSS feed.
More TreeHugger Articles On Compostable Packaging:
In Canada, Sunchips Uses Its Noisy Compostable Bag As Marketing Gimmick
SunChips to Introduce Completely Compostable Bags
Is Noise Really Why SunChips Should Ditch Bioplastic Packaging?
The Consumer Scoop on SunChips' 100 Percent Compostable Packaging