Containers made from corn - compostable?

paulns(NS zone 6a)April 10, 2008

The local grocery store had a new item today: USDA organic spinach from California, in a hard, clear plastic container labeled "Eco-friendly Container made from Corn - Renewable - Compostable", so I bought it.

It looks, feels, and weighs like plastic. Has anyone tried putting one of these on their compost pile?

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jmsimpson9(CA 8/9)

I did a search on google and sure enough, every thing I found says this type of container is compostable.

Test it and post about it!

From what I read it takes about 90 days and a heap over 110 degrees.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 6:12PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Okay! But it won't get 110 degrees... Think I'll fill it with thawed horse manure, put it on the pile and give it time.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 1:42PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Just today I bought something in a plastic tub, and when I went to see if it was recyclable, I saw that it said it was compostable.

I know these need better conditions than my home compost pile to really break down, but I threw it in there anyway to see what happens.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 7:54PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Here's another new thing, which arrived in the mail. The window in the envelope is made from corn 'plastic'. I don't compost shredded paper but feel okay about burning these in the wood stove. I imagine they would be helpful to people who do put paper and envelopes in their compost.

The manure-filled corn plastic container is still sitting in one of the compost piles. I checked it yesterday and it shows no signs of composting yet. But the compost temp is only about 60F.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 10:22PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Dee, let me know what happens to yours. It's only been a month but it should eventually compost, given enough time, don't you think?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 10:25PM
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They're probably made from PLA. Found this info on wikipedia.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia - Polylactic acid

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 11:13PM
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I bought some cups & straws made of PLA to drink out of while I'm working outside and then I just toss them in the compost pile on my way back inside. They're fabulous. I've been adding them to my cold pile for the past month or so and when I was picking around in there yesterday fishing out a glove that fell in I noticed that they're starting to sort of melt (like a foam plate does when you put something hot on it) but are staying "whole". They're just getting smaller, if that makes sense.

In any case, here is what the website I bought them from says about them composting:

These compostable food containers are made from NatureWorks polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn grown in the USA. These PLA containers are fully biodegradable and compostable and meet the most stringent scientific requirements for biodegradability and compostability, and are ASTM D6400-99 certified for "compostable plastics". Though, they are indistinguishable from normal plastic and as light and strong, they fully degrade into water, carbon dioxide and organic material when composted. There is no reason not to use these food containers made from readily renewable resources as compared to the petroleum based plastic containers, which create toxicity and environmental pollution.

Please note, composting is required for biodegradation and these compostable food containers will biodegrade within 180 days in a commercial composting facility, and can take up to a year or more to biodegrade in a home composting system. These compostable containers are only meant to be used for food at temperatures less than 110 degrees F.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:29PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Funny that this thread was resurrected today. Paul, just this morning I was adding to my pile, and I saw the plastic tub. My first reaction was to get exasperated at my DH, who always throws plastic in there (bread still in the bag, etc.). Then I sheepishly realized it was the compostable container that I put in there.

My pile is a cold pile (and probably colder than usual lately, for lack of stuff going in there) and I only gave the container a quick glance. It didn't look like it had done much. But I will be adding more to the pile in the next week or so to get it going, and I'll check on it soon and let you know how it goes.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:40PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Your husband throws bread on the pile when it's still in the bag? Wouldn't annp be pleased. :) Sounds like an ingredient for slow compost, which I'm in favour of. I'll let you know as soon as I see any signs of rot - maybe this fall?

Thanks for the links about PLA, chrisd and sfg.

I got to thinking about this and wish I still felt altogether positive about it. Is it really, in the big picture, a good thing to be using farmland to grow plastic substitutes instead of food?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:53PM
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Paulns - you and Michael Pollan sound like friends. :) You should read his books. I mean, seriously, he actually does address the corn issue. I won't try to summarize his views here, but do check out his books, they're really fascinating. He's also featured in the new documentary King Corn which I just got from Netflix and watched. It's really good.

In any case, I figure the government isn't going to change anytime soon from growing corn to anything else, especially with the current administration, so if I can use corn containers and bags that decompose versus plastic ones that will outlive us all then I'm using them. If you're really concerned you can use the containers/cups/plates made from sugarcane which is a byproduct of sugar which you know people will never give up! Plus, the sugarcane (bagasse) containers decompose significantly faster.

Here's the info on the bagasse products from the same website where I got the PLA stuff:

Disposable, compostable & biodegradable plates made from 100% bagasse - sugarcane fiber remaining after extraction of juice from the sugarcane. Sugarcane is not only a readily renewable resource, but the sugarcane fiber can be turned into products normally made from plastic or paper and avoids the pollution from normal burning of sugarcane pulp after juice extraction. These biodegradable plates are soak proof, have no plastic or wax lining applied to it and can be used for both hot and cold items. Please note, that though these compostable plates are soak proof, hot items will cause the plates to "perspire" and some condensation will form at the bottom of the plates. A far superior alternative to styrofoam & plastic (non-biodegradable, petroleum derived, pollution causing) and as well as paper plates made from cutting down trees.
Please note, composting is required for biodegradation and these compostable plates will biodegrade within 30 days in a commercial composting facility, and within 90 days in a home composting system.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 4:05PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Michael Pollan was on The Hour, an interview show on CBC here, promoting his book not long ago - a good guy for sure.
The stores here show signs of phasing out plastic bags soon, as San Francisco did - they're all starting to offer heavy duty recycled/recyclable plastic bags.
Bagasse does sound far, far better, and I'd like to get my hands on some products to see what they are like. But even there, what will feed the soil to grow the sugar cane if the bagasse is turned into plastic?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 7:00AM
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I happen to come across this forum & found it very interesting. I agree that using farmland to produce packaging isn't the best idea, but at the same time, I feel better about buying "plastics" that are compostable. Speaking of that, where did you find straws that are compostable? I have never heard of such thing. Thanks for the great info :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 3:44PM
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paulns - From what I understood about bagasse, the sugar cane was burned, so I'm not sure that added that much back to the soil, but maybe I'm just clueless. I wish more stores here would phase out plastic bags. I always keep a few string bags in my car to use while shopping, but sometimes you see people carrying two things out in a bag. It's really insane.

healthierhabits - From what I gathered they're using the leftovers (plants, etc.) from growing corn to make the "plastics" so it's not like they're opening up more land to grow corn on to make the faux plastics which makes it better in my view. I figure if I'm going to use plastics anyway, they may as well be "plastics" that biodegrade. You know?

And the straws (and cups, containers, etc.) I got from this website: They do have a minimum order amount and shipping is based on weight and zone, so you may want to combine orders with a friend or just stock up in one order.

Here is a link that might be useful: Website for straws

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:17PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I'm also a bit hesitant about the use of corn in these products, but I do recall reading somewhere that, as sfg stated, it is corn by-products/waste that are used, not the actual corn itself. I need to educate myself a little further on this issue before I feel completely comfortable with it - or not.

Thanks for that info on the sugarcane products. I hadn't heard of them yet.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 12:01AM
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Thanks a bunch!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 4:27PM
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