In 2010, we'll be throwing chip bags in there. Photo via the Green Debate Team
In a fine example of a major corporation taking a solid eco-friendly stride, SunChips has announced that by 2010, the company will begin selling their snacks in compostable packaging. The new bag will be comprised of a plastic made from renewable, plant based materials (PLA) and you'll be able to compost it in your home compost pile—after you eat the chips, of course.Given that composting is largely on the rise, and is becoming more and more commonplace in the US, the promise of a fully compostable bag is compelling indeed.
The bags are made from polyastic acid, or PLA, a unique polymer. According to the press release from SunChips:
PLA is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid is made from dextrose by fermentation. Dextrose is made from starch and starch is made from carbon dioxide and water. Because it’s made with plants that grow annually instead of petroleum (which takes millions of years to form) the impact on greenhouse gases is much lower.
The studies done on the new bags indicate that they'll compost in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions in 12-16 weeks at temperatures over 55 degrees F. Of course, independent studies remain to be be done on the bags since they won't be available on the market for another year, we have to take these findings at face value, for now. So do these bags truly biodegrade readily in your backyard compost? Pure PLA is indeed is compostable, and some types really will break down in your yard. (Other "biodegradable" plastics only break down into miniscule particles that make their way into soil but are never fully reabsorbed back into nature.) However, UV stabilizers could be added to the inks which could interfere with microbial processes, and if the bags are made from genetically-modified (GM) plants, then they may not be perfectly sutainable.
Still, this marks a huge step in the greening of product packaging. After all, how many other compostable chip bags do you know of out there?
[Editor's note: TreeHugger has received a compostable bag from SunChips and will be testing out. Watch this space.
This post was updated from its original version on 4/24/09 to try to further clarify the complicated degradability issues associated with PLA.]
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