Almost 35% of what North Americans put into landfills is clean, organic, biodegradable “waste’:
- Food scraps from leftover meals and food preparation
- Wet or food-soiled paper goods (like paper towels, tissues, wax-coated cardboard, plates
- Yard trimmings such as grass clippings, branches and leaves
All of the above wastes are easily recycled – via composting (the verb).
The problem is that, especially for #1 and #2, all this rich biodegradable waste is contaminated by the presence of very small amounts (less than 5% by weight) of plastic. This non-degradable minority ruins compost (the noun) by injecting tiny flakes of plastic that can not be sorted (before) or sifted (after) composting.
Think of the trash bin at your typical fast food restaurant: lots of wet paper plates, paper wraps & containers, paper napkins, paper cups + lots of partially eaten food. All biodegradable. All easily composted.
However, commingled with this compostable waste are non-degradable plastic: straws, lids, forks/knives/spoons. 95% (by weight) biodegradable waste, potential compost, being held “hostage” by 5% non-degradable plastics.
Since composters have no practical way of sorting or prescreening out these plastic bits, they refuse the entire load. And all that trash goes to the landfill.
The same situation is true at schools, hospitals, sports stadiums, theme parks, malls, airports, and even outdoor festivals and concerts: small bits of plastic that prevent large quantities of organic waste from being composted.
That’s where compostable products come it.
Compostable products are a substitute for non-degradable plastics. They look and feel just like plastic, but biodegrade safely like paper or other organic materials. So, my removing the 5% (by weight) of non-degradable plastics, we can make the entire waste stream completely compatible with composting, and keep millions of tons of organic waste out of landfills.