EPISODE 5: An End… and A Beginning. A Compost Story Conclusion

This is the fourth post in a 5-part series on our journey from certification to acceptance of our compostable food ware products in the Metro Vancouver region. Read Episodes 12, 3 and 4 for the background on this story, and bookmark our blog to follow along!.

Be sure to tune in for our compostable education materials to follow!

 

Compostable Biodegradable Product Research Testing at University of British Columbia

Emily and Hongjie sieving bags at the UBC Farm, January 2015

We returned to the facilities many times throughout the fall, and carefully retrieved our test bags from Revolution Resource RecoveryWhistler Compost Facility, and Harvest PowerBack at UBC, we spent sunny but cold winter days at the UBC farm sifting through the compost for our products, with some amazing results.

The compostable bioplastic (PLA) materials – usually the ones which aren’t accepted at compost facilities – are actually the first products to vreak down! Disintegration starts with the puffed PLA ‘biofoam’, then cups and deli containers, and lastly the cutlery.

CPLA vs Fibre results for Aerobic Windrow Compostable Biodegradable Testing

Only small pieces remain of certified compostable bioplastic fork, knife, and spoon, compared to a fibre-based clamshell in the same test bag, January 2015

More surprising, there are cases where fibre-based products, which seem easiest to break down, don’t degrade. In the example on the right, there was enough heat and moisture in the 3 1/2 month period to break down the compostable cutlery, but not to break down the Fibreware clamshell.

We found PLA products that were intact, but opaque, which means they didn’t reach the required 55-60 degrees Celsius it takes to begin the composting process for PLA. We also had bags with completely intact control materials (kraft paper bags), meaning a number of environmental conditions from moisture to pH were not ideal.

What does all this mean? We have more work to do! We’re motivated and inspired by watching our products disintegrate week by week, and hearing the facility operators support for our mission of increasing organics diversion and reducing waste going to landfill. It confirms our faith in the third party compostability certifications we hold.

We’re also concerned by the situations where the products don’t degrade as expected. Over the coming months and years, we are partnering with other packaging providers, universities, researchers, and the composting industry across North America to solve some of the unanswered questions coming out of our research.

There is another beginning from this study – The Compost Council of Canada hosts an annual “Compost’s Giants“ contest for the largest pumpkin grown with only compost, no fertilizers. We signed up for our pumpkin seeds at the Compost Matters conference in Victoria in March 2015, and eagerly awaited the right time to plant. We don’t have any great planting places at our office itself, but the Vancouver Montessori School next door loved the idea of their students being able to watch our pumpkin plant grow, so we enriched the soil with tried-and-true Harvest Power compost, and added some of the compost left over from our study!

Bookmark our Blog, and Stay Tuned for more posts on our lessons learned in testing BSIbio‘s compostable/biodegradable foodware!

 

BSIbio dug into the compost at regional facilities with the University of British Columbia to make sure our products return to the earth.

We know our products will never disappear, and can only be converted into something else. 

Why do you care? Compostable products become a part of our Canadian landscape through the soil. When you buy these products, you want to be sure they really do what they say they do, breaking down completely and safely. This research is essential as we strive for truly responsible compostable products. Your interest and support of our mission helps make it happen!

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