SunChips' Compostable Bag Not So Compostable? [Updated]

SunChips compostable bag

 We were more than a little excited when SunChips announced a plan earlier this year to roll out the world's first 100% compostable chip bag. A bag that breaks down entirely after 14 weeks in a compost bin? It has to be the beginning of some sort of packaging revolution, we thought. But maybe not.

Over at the anotherkindofdrew blog, Drew Odom has been documenting the SunChips bag compost process. So far, the experiment isn't going as smoothly as Frito-Lay might like. After three weeks, the bag looks pretty much the same as it looked at the beginning of Drew's experiment. And it hardly matches up to what SunChips predicts for the three week mark (see video below).

This doesn't necessarily mean that Frito-Lay is lying—after all, that would be an incredibly poor marketing choice. But the 14-week claim might be a bit too ambitious.  Stay tuned—we'll keep tracking Drew's experiment until the 14-week day of reckoning.

Update: Chris Kuechenmeister, Frito-Lay's Director of Public Relations, tells us that the problem stems from the fact that Drew didn't create a hot enough compost environment. Instead of following Frito-Lay's directions to put the bag in a hot, active compost bin, he stuck the bag in the ground. "He's probably not getting enough heat there," Kuechenmeister explains. "During the development of the bag, we did some outside tests like that to see what would happen. The reality is that if you don't get a hot enough environment it could take much longer to break down."


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10 Comments

  • Crittersmama

    I put one of these old "compostable" bags (the loud ones) into my compost bin, where it's been for over a year, and it hasn't composted AT ALL. Not even a little. It broke down into small metallic pieces, with the writing still plain as day. Most of the bag is still in tact. As far as I can tell, it ain't about to disintegrate or compost anytime soon. What a crock. Can you say greenwashing?!!!

  • pakalolo girl

    I placed 3 Sunchips bags in my active compost bin last summer. They are all still in pristine condition as of today. At the very least they have been in there 10 months, well past the 14 weeks suggested on the bag. I have never actually measured the temperature of my compost bin, so I can't confirm how hot it is, but it has been adequate enough to compost my kitchen and garden waste for the past 3 years without issue.

  • Northeasterner

    'Bury in the ground' (even with other compost materials) is not exactly composting.

    Perhaps one outcome of the experiment might be a call to companies for more education and clear terminology around 'biodegradable' vs. compostable, and what they mean by those terms (vs., say, what the state of California or a farmer means by those terms). Wouldn't it be great if the packaging pointed to online video(s) to learn more about these processes and what a person can do to participate? Complete with product placement, of course. Fair's fair.

  • Ecologic Earth

    Compostable doesn't necessarily mean you can just toss in in the ground, nor does it mean you can compost it in a home composter. It needs to have the marking on it's label for home composting. This bag is compostable in an industrial composter. You can find one near your area at findacomposter.com.

    www.ecologicearth.net

  • DailyReusables

    This is one of those things where I really have genuine hope that this isn't another green washing. It would be very cool if a large industrial food company actually put together a marketing effort that met the intended expectation. If the bag does not break down in a "active compost" (as Robert pointed out) pile or bin within even a month of when they claim I think they need to re-label the packaging.

    www.dailyreusables.com

  • Robert Ezekiel

    putting the bag in the ground is far from putting it into an active compost. So are they going to have instructions on the bag on how to create a compost? most people will just put the bag into the trash and then the dump will just bury it in the ground. I applaud them for taking the firststep in the right direction but looks like the design needs to be a work in progress

    _Robert

  • Jeremy Tilley

    I've got one in my compost bin now. It's been super hot and I've been keeping it moist so it's really 'cooking'! Hopefully I can speed up the 14 week timeline. Has anyone else bought one of these bags? It's the loudest frigin' packaging ever. Completely ruins any attempts at late night snack sneaks. It's even kind of annoying during the day. Kind to the environment - yes. Kind to your ears - no.

  • Sam

    Putting the bag in the ground is not the same as putting it in a compost pile!! I understand that they are splitting hairs, but it did say compostable not "bury this and it will degrade." The difference is the same as burying trash in the backyard and building a working

  • Chris Reich

    The bag in the video doesn't look very different after three weeks. I would hope the "decycle" curve would peak toward the end of the 14 week span as I wouldn't want my chip bag falling apart a week after I bought chips. Would you?

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com