What They Are
Compostable products are items made from renewable resources such as corn, sugar cane, grasses, palm leaves, and even wood instead of petroleum-derived plastic. Here’s what you need to know before you buy compostable products, and especially before you dispose of them.
Buy only products that display the following:
- The “compostable” BPI logo (shown here)
- The phrase “meets ASTM standards for compostability”
- One or both of the above identifiers on their website, packaging or other materials.
These products have been independently tested and are proven to meet the following standards when disposed of in a commercial composting facility such as Green Mountain Compost:
- The entire product will completely break down into organic matter that can be digested as food by microorganisms in the composting process.
- This breakdown happens within 180 days.
- The microorganisms will consume the material at the same rate as they would natural materials such as food scraps, soiled paper, leaves and other yard debris.
What’s Okay/What’s Not
The chart below shows general product types and whether they are acceptable for composting at Green Mountain Compost. For a list of specific products we will accept (EXCLUDING utensils), please see the Cedar Grove Compost website.
The Cedar Grove website provides an extensive list of products approved at their facility in Washington State, which has a composting process similar to Green Mountain Compost’s. We’re grateful for the time and energy Cedar Grove has put into product testing.
|Products accepted at our facility||Examples|
|Uncoated paper products||Napkins, uncoated paper plates (e.g. Chinet brand), paper towels|
|Uncoated paper-like fiber products (must be certified)||Clamshells, plates or bowls made from sugarcane (“bagasse”) or other plant pulps|
|PLA* or PLA-lined cups and bowls (must be certified)||Clear PLA cups for cold beverages, PLA-lined paper hot cups and bowls|
|PLA liner bags (must be certified)||Many brands available, including Bio Bags, NaturBag, BioTuf and others. Readily available online and at some local retailers (see list below).|
|Certain wooden utensils (forks, spoons, knives)||Birchware, Ecoware|
|Products NOT accepted at our facility||Examples|
|Any utensils, regardless of the labeling or certification||Many brands available. NONE are currently acceptable at Green Mountain Compost. We accept only the wooden cutlery specified above.|
|Any plastic bags or other products that say “degradable” or any variation of that word, including “bio-degradable” and “oxo-degradable”.||Examples include Gadue’s drycleaning bags, City Market shopping bags, Phoenix Books shopping bags and some packing “pillows” used for cushioning. “Green N Pack” brand bags also are NOT compostable.|
|Petroleum-based plastic of any kind||Bags, utensils, cups, clamshells, etc.|
*PLA stands for polylactic acid, a polymer derived from renewable sources such as corn starch, cane sugar or tapioca.
Local Retailers That Carry Compostable Products
These retailers have all been notified of our requirements for bioplastic and other compostable products. Please note that these retailers may also carry products that are NOT accepted at Green Mountain Compost. We welcome suggestions for additions or corrections to this list.
|Company Name||Location, phone|
|City Market Coop||Burlington; 802-861-9700|
|Compostable Goods||Online only; 802-876-7378|
|Foley Distributing||Rutland; 802-773-3738|
|Gardener’s Supply Co.||Burlington, Williston; 1-888-833-1412|
|Healthy Living Market||South Burlington, 802-863-2569|
|Natural Provisions||32 Williston; 802-876-1400|
|Sweet Clover Market||21 Essex Junction; 802-872-8288|
More About Bioplastics and Why You Should Care
Since many bioplastics will break down in commercial composting conditions, proponents tout them as a great, “green” alternative to plastics made from petroleum. Debate on this topic is ongoing, and controversy surrounds various life-cycle analyses that show seemingly conflicting results when all factors–from source material extraction/cultivation to disposal methods—are considered in the total environmental impact of bioplastics vs. other products.
Also, bioplastics are NOT recyclable with conventional plastics. If these products end up in the recycling stream, they contaminate and degrade recyclable materials.
Finally, like any material, bioplastics decompose extremely slowly in the dark, airless environment of a landfill. When bioplastics DO begin to break down in this anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
With the exception of bioplastic utensils (knives, forks and spoons), which do not break down in our composting system, Green Mountain Compost will continue to accept bioplastic products that are certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), or that have met the ASTM D6400 or D6868 testing standards.
In addition to proof of certification, we require that all bioplastic products be clearly labeled with the word “compostable” or another label readily identifying their compostability so that we can sort them from identical non-compostable plastics.
Green Mountain Compost reserves the right to exclude any product that does not break down within 8 weeks of standard processing in our system, regardless of whether the product meets the above standards.
How You Can Help
- Use durable goods! Products that can be cleaned and reused over and over again always have a lower environmental impact than single-use, disposable products. Ask your favorite restaurant, cafeteria, or other food venue for a non-disposable solution.
- Insist that any compostable containers you purchase for your business, event or home use are BPI certified or supply other proof of ASTM D6400 or D6868 standards.
- Insist that these certified products are clearly labeled with the word “compostable.”
- If you buy something from a restaurant or cafe that is using bioplastics or any other compostable container, ask the staff where you should dispose of that item. We believe that businesses that sell compostable containers or products in these containers have a responsibility to provide compost collection on-site when appropriate, or to make sure their customers know how and where to best dispose of the material off-site.