Compostable vs. Plastic Bags

Compostable vs. Plastic Bags

May 2nd 2023

Compostable bags and plastic bags are two different types of bags with distinct characteristics and environmental impacts. Here's a comparison between them:

  1. Material Composition:
    • Compostable Bags: Compostable bags are typically made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, vegetable oils, or other renewable resources. They are designed to break down into organic matter under specific composting conditions.
    • Plastic Bags: Plastic bags are commonly made from petroleum-based materials like polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP). These materials are not easily biodegradable and can persist in the environment for hundreds of years.
  2. Biodegradability and Decomposition:
    • Compostable Bags: Compostable bags are designed to break down into organic components through composting processes. Under proper composting conditions (e.g., specific temperature, moisture, and microbial activity), they can degrade within a few months to a year.* If dog waste is not accepted for commercial composting in your area, then bag will have no environmental benefit, with the exception that it does not use oil resources to produce. Dog waste is not recommended for home composting as heat is not sufficient to kill pathogens in dog waste. Bag may be used for kitchen scraps and landscape clippings and will be fully compostable. Meets FTC 2012 Green Guides for degrading within 12 months. Meets ASTM6400 Standard.
    • Plastic Bags: Plastic bags, especially conventional single-use ones, do not readily biodegrade. They can persist in the environment for a long time, contributing to pollution and posing risks to wildlife.
  3. Environmental Impact:
    • Compostable Bags: Compostable bags have the potential to be more environmentally friendly compared to traditional plastic bags. They can reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based materials and contribute to diverting organic waste from landfills when composted properly.
    • Plastic Bags: Plastic bags have significant environmental concerns. Improper disposal can lead to litter, clog waterways, harm wildlife through ingestion or entanglement, and contribute to plastic pollution in oceans and landfills.
  4. Disposal and Recycling:
    • Compostable Bags: Compostable bags are best disposed of in commercial composting facilities equipped to handle them. They may not break down efficiently in home compost bins or landfill conditions. Improper disposal can hinder their biodegradability and contaminate recycling streams.
    • Plastic Bags: Plastic bags can be recycled, but the process is not widely available and often requires separate collection or special recycling facilities. Many plastic bags end up in landfills, where their decomposition is extremely slow.

It's worth noting that while compostable bags offer potential environmental benefits, they require specific composting conditions to break down properly. If compostable bags end up in conventional plastic recycling or landfill systems, they may not decompose as intended and can have similar environmental impacts as regular plastic bags.

Ultimately, reducing the use of single-use bags, reusing bags, and opting for reusable alternatives like durable fabric bags can have a more significant positive impact on the environment than relying on single-use bags, whether they are compostable or plastic.