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Testing Composable Packaging Claims: Week 3

Yes! We have achieved deterioration! This is week three of my unofficial, unscientific test of 100% compostable packaging claims from SunChips and Boulder Canyon.  Three weeks ago, I buried the bags in my home compost pile, along with a Doritos bag just for fun, and I have been digging them up to see how they are doing.

Although it’s mid-October, the weather has been holding nicely. It’s been averaging in the 60s, with a combination of sun and rain, so while I don’t actively turn the pile, it’s got lots of raw materials to work with.

This week, only three weeks into the experiment, I am seeing real deterioration of the Boulder Canyon bag.

I have been unsuccessful in finding out the substrate used for the SunChips bag. My assumption was corn, and after additional poking at SunChips, I have gotten confirmation only that the substrate is “vegetable-based.” The Boulder Canyon bag, on the other hand, is made from tree-fiber. The top layer of the packaging is already deteriorating, with large chunks already deteriorated or pulled away. By contrast, the SunChips bag looks no different from the non-compostable Doritos bag sitting next to it.

My assumption is that SunChips went for corn-based packaging rather than tree fiber for shelf life. Although tree-fiber-based bags can be made with various compostable liners,  the issue is the longevity of the performance characteristics they exhibit. SunChips, as a larger company with larger volumes, is going to require more longevity than a smaller, regional company and therefore may not be able to “get away with” using fiber-based substrates.

Once I get an answer to that question, I’ll let you know. See y’all next week. Now that deterioration has started, it’s going to get more fun!

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

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.

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