Why tiny plastics in compost could cause BIG problems, and what you CAN DO
Plastics don't belong here.
Healthy soils support our very existence on earth. Plastics don't belong here, just like they don't belong in our oceans. But are they ending up here??
Look closely...microplastics are getting into our compost
Tiny "microplastic" particles are ending up in our compost and then in our soil.
Where are these microplastics coming from?
There's a thin plastic coating on these paper products that doesn't fully break down when composted. The tiny fragments leave microplastics that can then end up in our soil.
How can I stop this plastic pollution?
Keep reading for four ways you can help stop this plastic pollution today!
Microplastics in compost is a BIG potential problem
The plastic-coated paper products currently being collected by many composting programs produce both macro- and micro-fragments of non-biodegradable plastic which contaminate the finished compost. Once these plastics are dispersed into the environment, they have not been shown to biodegrade and are suspected of causing detrimental effects to organisms in a variety of ecosystems. We can expect these fragments to persist indefinitely and to be so widely dispersed that it will be impossible to clean them up. Compost collection programs and compost facilities must exclude plastic-coated paper products from their guidelines to prevent future harm.
Read more about the research from Woods End Laboratories and Eco-Cycle that shows the plastic coatings on these products break apart when composted but do not disappear and are not biodegraded by micro-organisms. Read the full report or the executive summary.
Four ways you can help keep our soils healthy
#1: Take the pledge!
Are you a compost processor or hauler? Do you oversee compost programs in your community? We need you to pledge to keep plastic-coated products out of your compost programs and facilities.
Food waste composting is in its infancy in the US, but the coming wave of new programs is looking to you to provide the best model of how to move forward.
We're asking you to set the right example and keep plastic-coated paper products out of your programs and facilities. Be clear and say no to these materials on your guidelines and educational materials, and help us keep our soils free of plastic pollution.
Join us and take the pledge to keep plastic-coated paper products out of compost guidelines and bins.
#2: Keep your compost clean!
You can help keep plastic pollution out of our soils by not putting plastic-coated products in your compost bin. Follow these easy steps:
- Recycle your milk and juice cartons. Carton recycling is available in most communities. Find out if your recycling program accepts cartons.
- Avoid plastic-coated paper products. Many of these disposable products can be easily avoided by bringing your own mug or take-out box. Learn more at our I Choose to Reuse campaign.
- Throw away plastic-coated paper plates, cups and take-out boxes. Believe us, we HATE telling people to throw away anything, but we know it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the future of our soil and our food production system. If you're not sure if your product is actually compostable (learn how to tell what is or isn't compostable), it's better off in the trash.
- Buy only compostable products when you need something disposable. Learn more in our guide to buying compostable products.
#3: Look for the label!
Truly compostable products do not contain petroleum-based plastics, and they break down naturally into healthy soil. There's a lot of greenwashing out there, so we've put together a simple buying guide to help you make the right choice for our planet and our health. Check out our guide on how to buy compostable products.
#4: Tell everyone you know!
We have a toolkit of reports, presentations and more to help you educate your friends, elected officials, fellow businesses, compost facilities and everyone you know about the risks of plastics in our soil.
Please share these resources far and wide, but please give credit back to Eco-Cycle and Woods End Laboratories. And we'd love to hear from you on what else you could use to spread the word. Let us know.
Reports on what happens to plastics when composted and the potential risks
Buying guides so you can find products you can trust
Recommended guidelines for your community composting program