Are Compost Bags Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 16, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

We all want to live in better communion with the earth and ensure our daily lives don’t leave a hefty carbon footprint. 

So, it’s a wise idea to understand what refuse can go in the regular trash, the recycling bin or our backyard compost piles. 

Believe it or not, compost bags are actually a source of confusion in this regard.

It would seem like a no-brainer thing to ask, but are compost bags biodegradable? Maybe. 

Technically speaking, compost bags should be biodegradable. 

But, unfortunately, advertising, marketing and federal regulation contort the phrase.

Will Compost Bags Biodegrade?

In the world of greener waste practices, the words “compost” and “biodegradable” are two different concepts that are not synonymous. 

That said, there are some companies that do produce good, viable compost bags that are both compostable and biodegradable with a reliability you can count on. 

But that requires discernment and research on your part.

A History of Concern with Functionality

It used to be that there was a concern over using compostable bags. 

This is because initial ones would split before they would even begin to make it to your compost pile. 

The contents of the bag and the moisture inside would begin premature degrading.

Modern Development ; Innovation

But new developments and technological innovations have made great improvements over the years. 

They make them specific for kitchen waste, yard clipping and even ones for your dog doo. 

These are strong, effective and biodegradable. One of the top manufacturers in this arena is BioBag.

BioBag and other companies are using newer and more durable grades of resin that are compostable, biodegradable and environmentally sound. 

The temperatures at which they’re blended and sealed along with the design of the bags are key features that make them biodegradable.

Composition of New Compost Bags

The materials used make the compost bags easily degradable in a compost pile without any additional help.

The microorganisms eat and digest the materials of the bag. 

This is what helps to create heat within the compost pile.

These materials include things like vegetable oils, plant waste and a compostable resin composed of a bio-polymer from plants, like corn or other organic starches. 

Such ingredients keep the compost pile active, which is the key to having successful microbial organisms create a healthy soil.

How Long Do Compost Bags Take to Degrade?

Compostable bags usually take about 90 days to decompose in a compost pile that maintains a temperature of 113°F (45°C). But, this is the European standard for composting.

The United States doesn’t have such a guideline for residential composting, only commercial ones with an the ideal temperature range of 90°F and 140°F (32°C to 60°C).

Proper Temp ; Other Conditions

To reach that, your compost pile should be somewhere in the ballpark of 3x3x3 feet. It should have a good blend of plant material that’s both new and decomposing. 

This will provide appropriate moisture and carbon levels. To keep oxygenation of the pile going, you do have to turn it from time to time.

Compost bags have the potential to add digestible materials for microorganisms and help to keep things warm.

All this assists with the breakdown process.

Why Aren’t All Compost Bags Biodegradable?

However, not all composting bags have the same production standards or adherences to quality. 

This means that just because a package claims to have compost bags that are biodegradable, doesn’t mean they are. 

Theoretically, they should breakdown, but it’s difficult to trust that claim across the board.

Look for Standardized Certification

This is why, whatever brand you go for in a composting bag, it should have a BPI certification or the European Composting Alliance label, indicated by the seedling pic on the product. 

You can at least be sure they’ll decompose well in a composting situation.

Even with Certification, It May Not Be Good

However, just because a bag is compostable and you can trust it doesn’t mean it will be a good thing for your pile either. 

This is because composting in cooler climates will experience a slower decomposition process than hotter ones.

So, while compostable bags are an excellent thing to use, it may be better to take them to a commercial or industrial compost center. 

Unless you can maintain the ideal temperature for the bags to biodegrade, it may take quite some time before you see any results.

Backyard-Specific Bags

That said, there are compostable bags available that are specific to backyard piles. 

But this doesn’t apply to every bag available on the market. 

So, you will have to do your due diligence when buying them.

No Regulations for Biodegradable Materials

Another thing about bags advertised to be compostable is that if they also mark it as biodegradable, this is a much less regulated concept. 

Because of this, it’s best to leave them out of a compost heap because they can leave toxic substances behind. 

You don’t want that in your plants, flowers and other growing things.

Conclusion

While it would seem that compostable bags being biodegradable go hand-in-hand, it’s not always the case.

It’s just that you can’t rely on these bags to safely breakdown in a compost pile or landfill.

If you know you can maintain the proper conditions for them to decompose then go for it. 

When in doubt, either take it to a commercial composter or avoid using them altogether.

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