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Testing Packaging Compostability Claims: Week 5

It won’t be long now until there my experiment is over. I dug up my two brands of 100% compostable packaging and the Boulder Canyon package was so limp that I couldn’t find it initially and thought briefly that it might have actually decomposed. I did eventually find it — it looks much like a wet napkin — and sure enough, we’re nearing the end.

For those who may not have been following my experiment, I decided to test the compostability claims of SunChips and Boulder Canyon, both of which claim that their bags are 100% compostable. Although the post title says Week 5, it’s really been closer to six or seven weeks from the start.  The Boulder Canyon bag is behaving nicely. It began decomposing almost immediately, with visible signs of decomposition within the first week.

I can’t say as much for the SunChips bag. The company claims that it will decompose in a “hot, active” compost pile within 14 weeks. Although I don’t exactly have a “hot, active” compost pile (I don’t turn it), my pile is certainly active. I have worms and centipedes and all sorts of bugs quite busy in the midst of my grass and eggshells and snack chip bags.

Boulder Canyon made no promises that I could see about how long it would take the bag to decompose, but as you can see, it’s on the closing end of the deal. SunChips, on the other hand, said 14 weeks in a “hot, active” pile. We’re halfway there, and as far as I can tell, there is not the faintest sign of decomposition.

Makes me wonder about SunChips’ decision to pull the bag from the market. If the bag really decomposed quickly and well in the hands of the average consumer, I wonder if the company would have left it on the market? But the fact that the bag has not even started to decompose halfway through the supposed decomposition period (at least in my experiment) makes me wonder what might be going on behind the scenes.

Maybe the company’s decision isn’t all about the noise.

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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