Putting 100% Compostable Packaging to the Test

Published on September 30th, 2010 | by

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about SunChips’ 100% compostable chip bag and Boulder Canyon’s 100% compostable bag, both of which are made from different materials. The SunChips’ bag is loud as a firecracker, while Boulder Canyon’s has a softer sound, like the crunching of a paper bag. Maybe that’s because it’s made from tree fiber.

They are both 100% compostable. But what does that really mean? SunChips claims that its bag will break down in a “hot, active compost pile” in 14 weeks. How many of us really have one of those? Not many. I don’t. I have a compost pile, but like the average person, I think, I just throw things on top of it, and when I need rich organic matter, I try to lift up the pile and get it from underneath.

So what does 100% compostable really mean to the average consumer? Or is it just marketing hype? I decided to find out.

I took a SunChips bag and a Boulder Canyon bag and put them into the center of my compost pile. It’s the grass layer, as you can see. I threw the Doritos bag in there just for fun. I don’t turn it. I live in Pennsylvania, so the weather is turning cooler. I doubt very much that much will happen in the short term, but I’m going to try the experiment just to find out.

What does this have to do with corporate responsibility? Consumers are watching the green claims that companies make. They test those claims. So if you’re going to make one, you’d better be right.

I’ll dig up this layer every week or so and you can see the results.


About the Author

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.