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A new online database lists more than 3,300 kinds of compostable plastic products that have been certified to break down in commercial facilities.
The Biodegradable Plastic Institute, which tested the items, created the database to improve the efficiency and quality of composting. The list make it easier for consumers and composters to know which cups, cutlery, bags and other items live up to claims that they will disintegrate into the soil conditioner called humus.
As more communities seek to boost recycling rates by diverting food scraps from landfills with compost programs, the need and demand for compostable plastics is growing. Several categories of the "product catalog" are devoted to the food-service sector. Products also can be searched by company, from Al-Pack bin liners to ecoKloud plates made of sugarcane to the thermoforming resins of Zhejiang Hisun Biomaterials Co., Ltd.
The database is designed to make it easier for composting advocates "to confirm that they are getting what they expect," according to the BPI website, which acknowledges that some unscrupulous manufacturers label products as "biodegradable" or "compostable" when they don't fully break down and often leave behind plastic.
"Each year municipal composters lose thousands of dollars from eliminating plastic fragments and litter that contaminate finished compost," the BPI website says. "Partially degraded plastic fragments can harm fertile farmland or spoil natural surroundings."
BPI urges consumers to shop carefully, compare products and demand items advertised as "biodegradable" be scientifically certified to do just that.
BPI is a non-profit organization that certifies compostable materials to be safe for large-scale composting as opposed to backyard. The BPI product catalog can be found at products.bpiworld.org.