How Long Do Biodegradable Bags Take to Decompose?

How Long Do Biodegradable Bags Take to Decompose?
5 min read
10 February 2023

Whether you're a recycler looking to reduce your environmental impact, or a consumer searching for an alternative to plastic packaging, you might be wondering how long biodegradable bags take to decompose. While there is no set time period, a number of factors can affect the amount of time it takes for biodegradable plastics to break down. Some manufacturers claim the bags will decompose within a few days, while others say it can take a few years.

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Oxo-biodegradable bags contain stabilizers to give them a "useful service life"

Earlier this year, a study by the BBC sparked controversy. It said that one bag did not degrade after two years. The study was based on a collection of biodegradable bags that were buried in a garden at Plymouth University. In the end, the researchers said the bags were still usable.

The bags were cut into strips and placed in mesh pouches. They were exposed to the outdoor elements at three different sites. One site was a garden at the university, one was a wall with southern exposure and the third was an open site. They were monitored regularly for holes and disintegration.

The study showed that the oxo-biodegradable disposable bags were not fragmented into small microplastics. The European Commission said it found no conclusive evidence that the bags fragmented to a low molecular weight, which was necessary for biodegradation in an open environment.

The bags were also tested for their strength. The samples processed at higher temperatures showed smaller strength for strains up to 250%.

The bags were also inspected for holes and disintegration regularly. The researchers said the bags were not contaminated with chemical additives.

But some chemists said the tests are flawed because they included a compostable bag. This bag is meant to be disposed of in industrial composters. Burlap Bags 22" x 36" - Great for Planting/Gardening - Kids Sack Bag - Sacks Burlap by Sandbaggy (Pack of 10) : Patio, Lawn & Garden


Industrial compost facilities don't accept biodegradable plastics

Despite the many marketing claims, the reality is that industrial compost facilities do not accept biodegradable plastic bags. Not only do these bags not break down in the landfill, but they may actually be harmful to marine life and whales. In fact, plastic bags may harm turtles as well.

Biodegradable plastic bags may be made from fossil fuels, and they may not break down properly when processed in commercial or home composting facilities. In fact, most bioplastics do not break down in the first place. This can lead to contaminated batches of recycled plastic and landfill waste.

Industrial compost facilities process compostable products into high quality compost that is used for soil remediation, food security, and other uses. The process uses microorganisms to decompose organic wastes. Using heat and humidity, the microorganisms break the materials down into organic materials. This yields water, carbon dioxide, and inorganic compounds.

Some biodegradable plastic bags are designed to break down at home in a backyard compost pile, but not in industrial compost facilities. These are generally made of a thicker plastic. This can make them less likely to interfere with the industrial recycling process.

A study from Environmental Science and Technology found that the majority of eco-friendly bags did not break down in all environments. They were tested in two different environments: open air and under the soil. The study found that all plastic bags broke down after three years, while the plant-derived bags broke down underwater in just over three months.

TBIA's position on biodegradable bags

Despite the popularity of biodegradable bags, there are still many questions about their actual decomposition and whether they will contribute to a greener planet. There are also many false claims made by companies.

Biodegradable garbage bags break down into biomass, water, and carbon dioxide. Biodegradable trash bags decompose at a much slower rate in landfills. However, they can still be recycled into new plastics.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines biodegradable as items that will decompose in a year or less. Biodegradable material is generally made from plants, algae, or seaweed. They decompose faster than non-biodegradable plastics, which are typically made of petrochemicals. But biodegradable plastics are different from compostable plastics.

Biodegradable plastic is also different from oxo-biodegradable plastic, which is a petroleum-based plastic with a limited amount of additives. Oxos are fragmented by oxygen and sunlight. The oxos will take two to five years to decompose, but are not considered biodegradable.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics are considered unsafe for unsealed landfill systems. The EPA requires landfills to block out air, moisture, and heat. In addition, ​ compostable bags should be placed in industrial composting facilities, which have favorable conditions for bacteria and other living things.

Despite the popularity of biodegradable trash bags, they may actually cause more harm than good. In fact, biodegradable plastics can also pollute the ground or waterways. In addition, they can damage recyclable plastics.

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