Compostable Bags Pollute, Too - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Compostable Bags Pollute, Too

Published May 11, 2015

Photos by
Paul Fontaine

Compostable shopping bags made from corn are not entirely green, an engineer from the waste management company Sorpa says, explaining that there are better ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Shopping bags made from corn, RÚV reports, have been billed as a greener option than plastic when it comes to shopping bags. Corn bags are compostable, breaking down relatively quickly in the soil the way any organic substance would. While plastic bags can take hundreds of years to degrade, corn bags emit five times more carbon dioxide than plastic bags as they decompose.

Icelanders throw away some 70 million plastic bags every year. Bjarni Hjarðar, chief engineer at Sorpa, told reporters that in the long term, it is possible to recycle these plastic bags, which is not something that can be done with corn bags. Mixing trash contained in corn bags with plastic bags can also damage the plastic in a way that renders it impossible to recycle, he said.

Bjarni offered instead that people make greater use of “blue cans”; household garbage receptacles for recyclable paper, without using plastic bags. In addition, shopping with a re-usable cloth bag – or the larger re-usable shopping bags sold at many grocery stories – can also greatly reduce the use of plastic bags.


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