If you've ever wondered how to open a compostable bag, you are in the right place. We're going to look at the different types of bags, how to test them for stability, and why you should use them over plastic.
Compostable vs biodegradable bags
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to biodegradable and compostable bags. If you don't know the difference, you can end up making a poor shopping decision.
Biodegradable is an umbrella term for products that are made from biological materials and are broken down by microorganisms. It can be used for anything from vegetable oil to corn starch. However, it is not guaranteed to break down into a viable compost in a home bin.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets standards for biodegradable products. These tests are used to verify that a product is degradable. While the definitions vary, the standards require a certain amount of time for the material to break down.
The process of breaking down is known as "composting." Composting takes place in a controlled environment in which the material is broken down into simpler components. A composting facility is usually a well-aerated area that is heated, moist, and has an oxygen supply.
Plastic vs plant-based bags
The plastic bags that you use for your groceries are very popular. They are lightweight and inexpensive. Unfortunately, they also pose a serious problem to the environment. A major portion of this plastic ends up in our waterways, in birds' nests and even in whale stomachs. These materials can leech dangerous chemicals into the food that we eat.
If you want to keep your trash out of the ocean, you can use compostable trash bags. Compostable bags are made from organic material such as corn starch and wood pulp. Although they break down more slowly than regular plastic bags, they are generally much greener. You can find compostable trash bags at most grocery stores and pharmacies.
Plastics are polymers, which are a series of chemical compounds. Typically, these polymers are synthetic, but they can be made from plant starch. In order to be compostable, these polymers must be mixed with other organic material and then ground up.
Leaking liquids out of the bag
If you're thinking about composting, you may have heard about the advantages of biodegradable bags. However, you also need to consider the process and the materials you need to use. There are many options to choose from.
One of the first things to look at is whether or not the bag is certified. This will ensure that the bag will degrade in a controlled environment. The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a third-party certification organization that tests products to ensure they meet specific standards.
Another thing to consider is the strength of the bag. You don't want to fill a bag that is too heavy for the bin. That could cause it to leak. Some plastic alternatives can do this, too.
Most plastic trash bags will have a certification logo on the packaging, but this does not guarantee the integrity of the bag. To ensure that the bag breaks down in the right way, you should check with your local composter.
Test for compost stability in Europe and the U.S.
There are a variety of tests performed to measure the relative stability of composted materials. The most useful one is probably the TMECC (Testing and Measurement of Composts and Containers) protocol. In its simplest form, it is a three-day measurement of the respiration rate of compost at 370C.
However, there are a variety of specialized test methods that can be employed, depending on the type of compost you are testing. Using multiple samples can be a more useful indicator of bulk density than a single test, and can be a useful tool to compare samples for the same end use.
One such test is the Tukey HSD. A specialized instrument with an infrared detector is used to measure the amount of inorganic C present in the sample. Subtracting inorganic C can provide a true value for the organic C content.
Common uses for compostable bags
It's no secret that people are concerned about the environment and how to dispose of trash. One of the best ways to ensure your waste doesn't end up in landfills is to recycle or compost your trash. But what about biodegradable bags?
Biodegradable trash bags are similar to standard trash bags. They hold yard waste, food scraps, and compost material. However, they don't decompose as fast or as efficiently as other types of trash bags.
The problem with biodegradable trash bags is that they don't break down well in landfills. Compostable items need moisture and nitrogen to decompose, and these aren't readily available in landfills.
Biodegradable products can break down in the presence of bacteria, but these organisms aren't necessarily the same as those that compost. Some of the bacterial species that live in anaerobic landfills can also eat certain materials. This can lead to contamination of the compost.