There was a recent press release issued by Media Juice titled “Biodegradable Plastic – Compostable Not So Fast Says Stanford Daily.” The press release reviews a study performed by students at Stanford University regarding compostable utensils and their performance in “real world” environments.
The study points out that what the company markets as a compostable PLA material and the “Compostable” certifications that organizations (such as BPI Biodegradable Products Institute) issue on the material is not necessary a reflection of what happens in real world environments.
This brings up a great point and discussion topic and one ENSO has pushed for the past five years and that is that we are mistaken in our approach to promoting, marketing or pushing materials that will go away in any real world environment in a specific timeframe. Even the much touted and pushed material of PLA is not a rapidly compostable as is promoted in marketing materials. Sure, we can create test environments which are highly controlled and manipulated that will maximize biodegradation and provide results that look and sound great, but the variety that nature brings in the real world can mean a huge difference in the amount of time needed for a product to biodegrade, from months to even years. This does not change the fact of whether a product is biodegradable, just simply that to dictate exactly when it will biodegrade is a bit misleading to the consumer.
So yes – labs can show specific time frames for biodegradation, but what happens when that same material ends up in real world environments? 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t perform as promised. So, what does this mean? How can a material tested and certified by industry organizations such as BPI not perform when introduced into real world natural environments? After all legislators are passing laws based on such certifications.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.