Why Choose Compostable if It's Still Going in a Landfill?

Bag full of apples that says "Bio compostable"

John Cameron / Unsplash

These days everything says eco-friendly, natural, biodegradable, and compostable (not to mention a myriad of other mysterious environmental words. Sounds good, right? But is it worth spending the extra couple of bucks if the item won't actually make it to its eco-grave?

I've often wondered that as I wander the supermarket - big deal if this corn-container is compostable, its still going in the garbage can. Then when it makes it to the landfill, it won't break down any better than the plastic clam-shell sitting right next to it. So, is it still worth purchasing the compostable item in hopes that somehow, someway it will breathe its last breath in a compost bin instead of a landfill? COOL 2012 is out to make sure that items that can be composted, are composted, and to show you how to do it.

According to a recent TreeHugger article, nearly 25% of all materials going into landfills today could be composted instead. The goal of COOL 2012 is to get everyone to not just purchase the "better" items, but then to make sure that they are used properly and get that 25% number down to zero over the next 3 years.

All About Composting

COOL 2012 gives you benchmarks and tips on exactly what to compost - for example telling you to recycle 75% of all your paper and then compost the remaining 25% (thus keeping all waste paper out of landfills). While many landfills are capturing and reusing methane produced, the folks at COOL 2012 want you to keep items out of landfills to reduce methane produced (methane being more potent and destructive than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere).

Can't wait to get started? The site has tons of resources for communities and state regulations and policies, how to compost (and what to compost) as well as upcoming workshops and conferences. Want to get involved and host a composting event in your community? They can help.

Biodegradable vs. Compostable: What's the Difference?

Biodegradable items are materials made of primarily naturally-occurring parts that are able to be broken down by living organisms and absorbed into the environment. Food scraps, paper, yard trimmings, pesticides - all of these items can be composted (well except the fertilizers) and the COOL 2012 website explains why and how. The TH Forums also discussed the difference between recyclable, compostable and biodegradable.

Currently items that are bioplastic, thus able to be composted do not have a labeling system to identify their constituent materials. The Bioplastics Recycling Consortium is working on a labeling system and an education campaign to get the word out about composting everything possible and making it easier to identify.