Frito-Lay North America Inc. is spending a lot of money and effort to let the public know that its SunChips snack chip bags are "fully compostable." But one community decided this week that the bags may not be quite compostable enough. The Regional Municipality of Niagara, Ontario, announced May 18 that it will not accept the bags in its Green Bin program because the film takes too long to degrade in the community's composting plant. "The Sun Chips bags are made of polylactic acid, which is a corn starch-based product similar to that which is used in the compostable liner bags that are accepted in the Region's organics program. Both products compost under the right conditions, however, the Sun Chips bags have three layers of and compost in about 14 weeks, while the bin liner bags are a single layer and break down in three to four weeks," Andrew Pollock, director of waste management services, said in a news release. "The Walkers' Gore Composting Facility, which processes the Region's Green Bin material, produces compost in eight weeks. As such, the Sun Chips bag may not fully break down in the composting process. Bags that do not fully break down would be screened out and landfilled. "Walkers and the Region are currently conducting a controlled test to determine if the bags will break down in the eight-week Gore composting process. Once this test is completed, staff will determine if the Sun Chips bag can be accepted in Niagara's Green Bin program. Currently, only compostable bags carrying the Biodegradable Products Institute logo are the only compostable plastic item accepted in the Region's Green Bin program. In the meantime, the Niagara Region is reminding residents to continue to place all chip bags, including Sun Chip bags, in the garbage." Frito-Lay has gotten quite a bit of positive press for its SunChips packaging, which the snack giant called the world's first 100 percent compostable chip bag. If this community sticks with this decision, it's likely to go down as another case that will confuse consumers in the ongoing debate about the merits of packaging degradability.
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