Is Cellophane Compostable? (And is it Recyclable?)

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 30, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Everyone knows that plastic waste stays on the earth for centuries, cluttering up our landfills and oceans.  

Cellophane, however, is a biodegradable material that will compost back into the earth within months. 

Most cellophane is not recyclable because it is composed of plant-based material. 

The only exception to this is a cellophane product called polypropylene which is plastic-based and will need to be recycled.

This article will review whether cellophane is compostable, recyclable and if it is environmentally friendly. 

Is cellophane good for the environment?

The cellophane product itself is eco-friendly.  

The process of making cellophane has been found to cause pollution due to the use of carbon disulfide and other chemicals in the process.  

Studies have shown that carbon disulfide can also be harmful to the workers who are near the chemical.

Is cellophane compostable?

Because cellophane is bio-sourced, the product is compostable. 

True cellophane is made of cellulose from wood, hemp, cotton, or other natural materialsIt will biodegrade back into the earth. 

What does compostable mean?

Compostable means an organic substance that can biodegrade back into the earth. 

As a compostable product, it can go to the landfill and will eventually decompose naturally, even when trapped between other trash.

How long does it take cellophane to decompose?

Cellophane can decompose in 10-30 days.  

If the product has been coated with nitrocellulose, the process of decomposition will take a little longer at an estimated 2-3 months.

 Can I put cellophane in the compost pin?

Yes, you can put cellophane in the compost bin since it is made of biodegradable materials. 

Always check the packing to make sure there is no recyclable stamp.  

If it has one, then it is polypropylene will need to be recycled.

Can I put cellophane in the recycle bin?

Only polypropylene can be recycled.  Genuine cellophane is not recyclable. 

A good giveaway that you have a polypropylene product is if the package is heat-sealed. 

True cellophane will not be able to be heat sealed and will need adhesive to close the package.

Can you burn cellophane?

It is safe to burn cellophane. True cellophane will burn similarly to paper, becoming ash as the result.

Is cellophane water-resistant?

Cellophane is waterproof but is not moisture proof unless it is coated with nitrocellulose.  

This process was introduced in 1927 after a chemist was hired to solve the moisture issue.  

Most cellophane sold today has the coating required to make the product moisture resistant.

What is cellophane used for?

Cellophane is used as a packaging material.  It is commonly used for food, cigars, tape, and gift wrap.  It is also used to create a stained widow effect by artists. 

When did cellophane become a popular product?

Cellophane was used primarily by candy makers when the product was introduced.  

Whitman’s Candy started importing cellophane in 1912 to the U.S. from France.  

It remained the largest importer until a cellophane plant was brought to the U.S. in 1924.

Once it was introduced in the U.S., cellophane revolutionized self-service shopping in the meat markets because customers could now see the quality of the meat they were purchasing.

Cellophane also slowed the discoloration process of the meat products by limiting the oxidization and keeping moisture out.

Is cellophane plastic?

True cellophane is not plastic.  They are composed of different materials.  

Cellophane is produced from hemp, wood, or cotton, or other organic materials.  

Plastic is made from oil and natural gas production.

What are the characteristics of cellophane?

Cellophane is a thin, flexible material that is usually clear.  

It is breathable which makes it ideal for certain products such as cigars.  

Cellophane is strong and keeps its shape well.  It may easily crease, though.

Is cellophane making a comeback?

Cellophane is the oldest clear wrap that was first made in the early 1900s.  

in the 1960s sales of cellophane declined due to the variety of competitive options becoming available.  

Recently the use of cellophane has risen since it is a cost-effective way to discontinue the use of plastic.

How is cellophane made?

Cellulose is taken from raw materials in a process called dissolving the pulp.  

It is then dissolved in alkali in a process called mercerization. 

 After it has rested for several days, the pulp is treated with carbon disulfide to make viscose. 

Then the solution is added to a bath of dilute sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate. 

After this process happens, the cellulose is passed through a bath to remove sulfur, another to beach the product, and a last one to add glycerin to ensure the product does not become brittle.

What is Cellulose?

Cellulose is a polymer found in plant cell walls. It is a fibrous substance that contains no flavor or odor and is white. It is an insoluble material.

Cellulose is the most copious polymer on earth.  Cellulose is used to make cellophane, rayon, paper, and cardboard.

Are companies trying to make the process of making cellophane less harmful to the environment?

In recent years large manufacturers are moving toward making the process less damaging to the environment. 

The EPA created the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). 

The NESHAP has added limitations to the amount of pollution allowed by companies using carbon disulfide.

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