[permaculture] Composting Biodegradeable Plastic Bags

Louis G. Laframboise esiobmarfal at gmail.com
Fri Jul 31 20:42:29 EDT 2009

Has anyone had success or experiences composting biodegradeable plastic
bags? At one point, I remember hearing that the bags didn't actually
decompose, but just broke down into smaller pieces. Is this what happens
with the non-biodegradeable plastic only?

It seems foreign to me to put plastic bags in the compost, and to think that
they will eventually become soil. I have a hard time trusting this idea but
suppose it involves a mental shift and new understandings--such as taking
William McDonough and Michael Braungart's idea of "industrial nutrients"
(from their book Cradle To Cradle) seriously. Even though plastic has been
traditionally made mostly from oil and other toxics, could it be that these
biodegradeable plastics are actually benign and one example of industrial
nutrients which could be cycled in a non-toxic life-death-rebirth loop? Or
is it mostly greenwash?

To confuse matters, there must be many different types of plastic bags and
other such products which biodegrade. I once remember seeing the word   Even
though the applications and percentage of plastic bags which are
biodegradeable are relatively small, given such statistics as the 6:1 ratio
of plastics to plankton in the Pacific or other gyres and the other
destructive associationns that plastic has for the planet, getting every
shred of organics (now including the biodegradeable plastics) composted back
to earth is worthwhile. Asuming that it is natural and biodegradeable, how
quickly could we believe and start treating these new pastics as easily and
mindlessly as any other kitchen or landscape scraps by throwing them into
our composts or using them as mulch.

I am asking myself this in the realisation that I will still be using
plastic into the foreseeable future, even though we are briskly proceeding
along the path of energy decent and increasing resource constraints, and
that this is possibly only a stepping stone in the transition to a less or
no bag culture. But it also helps to perceive the change in mind which will
be required to make the jump to a more permanent culture which will take
ideas from both the old and new worlds. Natural plastics?

Any clarification on this, or the sharing of experiences would be greatly

Ottawa, Canada

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