Crunchy Composting

After hearing the news that SunChips were now sold in compostable bags–sorry, “‘chip package”–I finally got a chance to inspect a bag up-close and personal. I’m not much of a chip purchaser, but I was happy to kick the tires when a bag showed up in my kitchen yesterday.

My first reaction was: ‘Holy crap, this bag is loud.’ Then, I thought I was just being sensitive because my son was napping. Yet, I felt better after seeing this oh-so-validating explanation on the back of the bag:

Yet, in the future, SunChips, I would like a bit more clarification. I mean, most of the food scraps I compost couldn’t be classified as ‘loud.’ Perhaps I’ll call the 800 number on the bag…

That query aside, now comes the real test: will this bag decompose in my poorly-functioning compost bin. I’m guessing no because my pile doesn’t get that hot, and it has had a “compostable” cup as a pet for the last three years.

Has anyone actually had any experience–good or bad–composting these bags?

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  1. janes'_kid
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I read recently, don’t recall where, that the vermicomposting people could not use some “compostable” containers and they rationalized that “compostable” meant “commercially compostable”. They gave no explanations for their unsatisfactory results or for their rationalization.

  2. Posted July 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Jonathan – I think it’s very unlikely that the bag will breakdown in your backyard compost pile. The sunchips bags is certified compostable by the BPI and according to the ASTM standard D-6400 which is the standard for all compostable plastics. This standard however is for composting these products in a ‘commercial composting facility’.

    There are other standards out there (e.g., OK Compost Home) that certify products to be compostable in a home composting environment, but these haven’t made much traction in the US yet.

    Best of luck though and if you do get it to breakdown, definitely post an update.

  3. Posted July 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I was also doubtful about these bags, and I wanted to try for myself. But, I have yet to encounter one of them. So I cannot comment from personal experience.
    However, a friend of my is attempting the experiment, and says, that after about a month in a regular domestic composter, the bag is about halfway there.
    I know that most ‘compostable’(as opposed to ‘biodegradable’ which is a whole’nother can o’worms) bags, wipes and cleaning pads are designed for commercial composters, but I have managed to compost them at home: Biobags take 3 to 6 months; and Method’s floor wipes take about year. My town hasn’t quite got its act together, so it’ll be a while before I can send those things to the city’s composter, and I do not want to send them to the dump, so in the meantime, they will be going to my home composter.

  4. Bea
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    We had a few of these bags; we cut them into strips and tossed the pieces into our compost heap. Last weekend, after six months or so in the ground, we were turning the soil and compost material, and the bag pieces surfaced. They seemed unchanged. All of the other material in that part of the heap was completely disintegrated. We were disappointed in the new bags’ lack of break down progress in the home compost pile.

  5. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the insight, y’all. The results sound like a real mixed bag (no pun intended). I’m not terribly optimistic, but I’m just crazy enough to give it a shot. Also, I like Bea’s idea of cutting it up, first, though. Kind of improves the odds.

  6. Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    I actually added this bag whole, to my compost pile. After a few days it totally broke down. Now a few months later there are still pieces throughout, but I believe in a good composting environment this bag would do exactly what they say. The only problem is, being so loud it’s very hard to sneak some chips!

  7. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Those bags are CRAZY loud. I had a coupon for a free bag, so I brought one home and after we used it, I cut it into strips like Bea did. That was a few months back and I haven’t checked to see if it’s disintegrated or not. I’ll let you and my readers know, though!

  8. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    On the bag’s loudness–tell me about it!! I got busted trying to sneak a few chips before our gathering started.

    They should put another disclaimer on it: “This bag is intended for use in music class.”

  9. WilliamB
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I expect “compostable” means “hot compostable” or “compostable in a commercial facility.” I have no great hopes for it in my own cold backyard pile. But if I get one of these bags I’m going to try anyway. I’m not going to cut it up, though – I want to be able to pull it out if it doesn’t break down.

  10. Tamara
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    All “compostable” commercial products like corn plastic utensils, coffee cups, etc, will only break down in a municipal facility. That means if you are lucky enough to live in one of those cities that collects compost at the curb and trucks it to a facility (and you deposit it there), that chip bag will break down. Municipal composting facilities do indeed get very very “hot”–enough to melt these compostable plastics. This is why some criticize such moves at Sun Chip’s as green-washing—people feel better buying the bag because it seems “green” but it will end up in the landfill anyway, and are the resources that went into creating it (i.e. corn) really that better spent?

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