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Testing Compostable Packaging Claims: Week 4

Oh, the things I do for The Inspired Economist. This is the fourth week of my unscientific test on the compostability claims of Boulder Canyon and SunChips 100% compostable chip bags.

The decaying grass in my compost pile is getting heavier, the pile of eggshells and other kitchen scraps on top is getting heavier, and the mass is getting stinkier. Underneath are Boulder Canyon and SunChips chip bags, both of which claim to be 100% compostable.

The Boulder Canyon bag is soft, quiet, and made of wood fiber. The SunChips bag is loud and crackly and made of “vegetable-based” material.  Both are deteriorating at clearly different rates.

Judging from the look of things, however, I might not have to continue the experiment much longer. There is absolutely no indication of decay on the SunChips bag. It looks as crisp and intact as the Doritos bag below it. The wood fiber-based Boulder Canyon bag, however, is barely recognizable as a chip bag at all. Not only has it lots most of its ink, but not visible in the picture is that it’s lost all of its structure. It’s thin, with no body whatsoever, and appears ready to fall completely apart.

This is after only four weeks in an unattended, unturned compost heap.

SunChips claims that its bag will decompose fully in a “hot, active compost pile” in 14 weeks. Granted, it’s only been four weeks and my compost pile isn’t exactly turned on a regular basis, but with the rapid decay of the Boulder Canyon bag, the SunChips bag better get crackin’. It’s falling way behind.

See earlier pictures.

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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