Compostable “Plastic”: Too Good to be True?

For the past few years, Elgin Community College (my sometimes place of business) has marked their plastic lunch containers “compostable”.  Are they made of soy?  How are they stored so that they don’t decompose before use?  Do I put them in the recycle bin in my classroom or standard trash as they are allegedly “compostable”.  I’ve asked this of more than a few colleagues who return, “Why do you care?”  Not, “I don’t know” or “I never thought of that,” but instead the idea that I had actually thought to question the packaging was somehow wrong.  Ironically, I teach critical thought through writing, so of course, I questioned the information.

Getting no answers from my colleagues, I’ve made a few calls to Hospitality and the food service staff, who again counter, “Why do you care?’  My simple answer is: “If this ‘plastic’ really is compostable, why isn’t every food chain using it?”  Think of it this way, ECC may serve 300 students a day with “compostable” containers (I’m guessing at the number), but McDonald’s could serve millions daily with the same environmentally-friendly product.  That’s amazing!  Revolutionary!  Mind-blowing!  . . . well . . . if it’s true.

So, seeing as no one can give me an appropriate answer, I’m putting a used “compostable” cup in my compost bin later today,  and I’ll see if if decomposes by Spring when I’ll likely use the fresh soil.
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EarthChoice has no direct website, but their May 2012 press release at least looks promising (in addition to allegedly being compostable, the cups also made locally in Lake Forest, Illinois).  My compost bin will put this cup to the test far better than a corporate promise.

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4 thoughts on “Compostable “Plastic”: Too Good to be True?

  1. I’ve wondered this too when I’ve seen this packaging! I know that Whole Foods uses a potato-based biodegradable type of “plastic” (not sure what to really call it) in their prepared foods section that seems pretty legit. Hopefully this brand really decomposes and more companies take note to use similar products!

  2. My research is a litte outdated, but depending on the material used, most “compostable” plastics require an industrial composter to break down. But again, it depends on the material. That’s great that ECC is using compostable lunch materials though!

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