When we dispose of compostable bags such as trash or pet poop bags at home in a composter or worm farm, what can you then do with the resulting materials?
When you dispose of compostable pet poop bags in your home, you can then use the resulting nutrient-rich fertilizer in your own garden! This means that your plants can grow from compostable plastic! How amazing is that?
What Is Composting?
To understand composting, it’s important to understand how things break down when they’re disposed of. For example, traditional plastic breaks down due to the microbes or fungi in the surrounding environment. This is how compostable plastic and other compostable materials also break down when in the right environment.
However, it can take decades or centuries for traditional or even compostable plastics to break down in landfill. Enter composting for compostable plastics! Although compostable items are best broken down in an industrial composter which is set up perfectly with the right temperature, moisture levels, air and other important factors for decomposition, you can also compost at home in a composter or worm farm.
A simple definition of composting is when compostable materials break down into natural matter using the oxygen, air, water in the environment surrounding them either through an industrial composter, home composter or worm farm.
Compostable materials are anything essentially made from renewable materials or renewable materials or organic matter themselves. Materials that make up compostable plastics include corn, soy protein, potato, tapioca and cellulose whose starch is extracted to create the ‘bioplastic’.
If you compost the right things in the right way, they won’t contribute to landfill and will not negatively impact the environment if disposed of correctly. However, you can’t expect anything to compost correctly in landfill and must be disposed of in an industrial composting facility or at home in a composter or worm farm.
Learn more about the different types of composting here.
How Does Composting Work?
As we’ve discussed, composting is materials breaking down using the components around them to turn back into natural matter. Composting is a great idea for the environment and for great quality fertilizer, however, understanding how to compost, what materials can be composted and choosing your method of composting is key. If you decide to compost, you can choose to start your own home composter, begin a worm farm or dispose of waste at an industrial composting facility.
If you choose to use a worm farm or home composter, you can generate your own fertilizer. Be sure to do your research though as these can only take certain other materials and need certain controls in place to work effectively.
The important thing is to dispose of compostable materials correctly and make sure that your home composter or worm farm are set up and maintained correctly. This is why an industrial composting facility can be the best option for disposing of compostable plastic, as they are extremely well controlled and can handle bulk amounts of waste.
However, if you don’t dispose of them correctly, compostable plastic items will contribute to the waste issue and create more pollution. They also pose a risk for wildlife and marine life. They are unable to break down in a landfill environment at all and require composting or a worm farm.
What Are The Benefits Of Composting?
Of course, there are many benefits to composting correctly and this results in an excellent fertilizer! The benefits also include:
- Lower water and energy consumption during manufacturing.
- Less greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing.
- Reduces contributions to landfill.
- Does not leach or leave behind toxic chemicals.
- Safe for humans, animals, wildlife and the environment.
- Provide great fertilizer when composted correctly.
So, if you are willing to dispose of your compostable plastics in a home composter, industrial composting facility or a worm farm, then compostable plastic provides a great option for you. Industrial composting facilities are an exceptional idea also as they can take bulk amounts and are tightly controlled in terms of water, temperature, oxygen and microorganisms.
What Plastics Can Be Composted?
Plastics that are certified as composted can be composted! If an item has been certified compostable then it means that it will 100 per cent break down in the right environment into natural matter.
It also means that the item is made from organic or renewable materials, such as soy protein, cellulose, corn and other renewable ingredients. You can also find compostable items made from coffee grounds, seaweed and bamboo!
If something is certified compostable, it will be marked on the actual item or on the packaging. To be certified, the item has gone through several tests and measures and been certified by a third-party.
However, if disposed of in landfill, compostable plastic will NOT break down. Ideally, compostable plastic is broken down in an industrial composter as that’s what it is designed for. These composters are set up perfectly with the right temperature, moisture levels, air and other important factors for decomposition.
Home composters or worm farms are also able to dispose of compostable materials, but it’s important to understand what can go into these composters or worm farms and how to maintain them correctly. Typically, in the right environment, a compostable bag will average 90 days to decompose in a compost bin.
You can read more about the different certifiers here.
What Are The Uses Of The End Product Of Compost?
At the end of the composting process, you will have some nutrient-rich fertilizer! If at home, you will have a small amount you can use:
- In your garden
- In your houseplants
- To start a new worm farm or composter environment
- Complete small landscaping projects
- Start a vegetable garden.
For industrial composting facilities, the resulting fertilizer can be used for:
- Large-scale landscaping projects
- Home builds and landscaping
- Large gardens or vegetable gardens
- Farming projects.
So you see, by composting, you are contributing back to the environment and ensuring that plant life and wildlife are taken care of in some way. Both by reducing your use of traditional plastics and by returning your compostables back to the environment.
What Did ETSUS Do With The Soil After Composting The Pet Poop Bag?
You’ll be interested to learn that after my composting experiment with the ETSUS pet poop bags, I returned the resulting fertilizer from the worm farm into the ground. The fertilizer is now feeding and nourishing my vegetable garden.
So here we see a full cycle for alternative plastics whereby, they were created from renewable materials (corn starch in ETSUS’ case), used to collect pet poop, disposed of in a home worm farm, turned into high-quality fertilizer, feeding a vegetable garden and then will end up on my dinner plate!
And so the cycle begins again, so why are we still using plastics when there is clearly sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives?
You can view pictures and some videos of my experiment here!
Is It Safe To Use Soil With Composted Plastic In It?
Yes, of course it’s safe to use soil with composted plastic in it if it’s compostable. This is because compostable plastic is made from renewable materials and returns to 100 per cent natural, organic matter. It leaves behind no toxic chemicals or components because there is none!
Think of composting some corn or tapioca – could you still use the soil and even eat from vegetable grown in the soil? Of course you could because it’s completely natural matter. And that is what compostable plastic are – natural!
What Compostable Plastics Can You Use At Home?
There are several items you can use around the home if you’re looking to make a switch! These are easily available from your supermarket, specialty store or online shop:
– Food packaging such as containers, bags and takeaway cups.
– Food service items such as cups, cutlery, plates and napkins.
– Medical device packaging.
– Garbage bags.
– Carry or grocery bags.
– Sticky tape or packing tape.
– Toiletry packaging.
Some compostable plastics – PLA (polylactic acid) and CPLA (crystallized polylactic acid) – can be utilized in medical environments for uses such as medical implants, drug delivery systems and orthopedic devices as they are non-toxic.
Find out more about PLA and CPLA here.
So, can you use composted pet poop or other compostable bags in your soil? Of course! Compost is made from completely natural matter and turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer! This is the same as composting food scraps, meaning there are no chemicals present!
When you dispose of items such as compostable pet poop bags at home, you can use the resulting fertilizer to grow plants, flowers or even a vegetable garden! If you contribute to an industrial composting facility, you will contribute to large-scale landscaping/garden projects in your area.
By doing my own experiments, I have shown the full lifecycle of compostable plastics when disposed of correctly – they come from the ground, are used by us and return back to the ground and perhaps end up on our dinner plate!