Originally intended to help alleviate plastic waste, compostable products are instead filling up landfills and wreaking havoc on recycling plants.
Compostable bags, cups and cutlery are designed to be even more environmentally friendly than their standard biodegradable counterparts. Like biodegradables, they are capable of breaking down into the soil, but compostables have the added benefit of releasing valuable nutrients into the soil when they decompose. Such nutrients can aid the growth of plants and other wildlife, making compostables the plastics of choice for environmental advocates.
Compostable use in the U.S. is rising dramatically, with the number of certified products climbing 80 percent in less than four years.
However, to properly break down, compostable products typically need to undergo high temperatures and moisture. Such conditions require placement in special industrial facilities. While a growing number of programs offer compostable disposal sites, a lack of proper labeling and public unawareness is resulting in many people simply throwing away their compostables in the trash, where they end up in landfills and fail to decompose.
“The vast majority of consumers don’t have an understanding of how composting works,” Anne Elsea, a spokeswoman for non-profit GreenBlue, told The Wall Street Journal.
The confusion is causing major compost programs to scale back or stop operations entirely. more