Mother Earth Living

Plastic Packaging? Send It Packing

Now eco-savvy shoppers have a new option: compostable plastic bags and containers made from renewable sources, such as corn and soy, instead of fossil fuels.
By Meagan Francis
July/August 2006
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While most biodegradable plastics must be composted in a commercial compost facility to break down fully, they help divert waste from overburdened landfills—and make a big difference in the long run.

If compostable plastics aren’t available at your local grocery store, you still have landfill-friendly alternatives: Fill glass jars at the bulk bin rather than purchasing individually wrapped items, reuse plastic produce bags, and bring your own cotton or hemp shopping bags for carrying groceries.

Look for these compostable options at your natural-foods store:

1. Clamshell containers, cups, straws, trays, plates, bowls and utensils made from corn or bagasse (sugarcane fiber remaining after juice extraction) may be used in deli and dairy sections.

2. Produce bags and plastic wrap made from corn, soy or potato starch may be available in bakery or produce sections. (Note: Never reheat an item while covered with plastic of any kind.)

3. A few manufacturers are beginning to use biodegradable packaging. Look for these:
• Biota spring water comes in clear, compostable bottles.
• BioBag makes biodegradable food-storage, trash and compost-bin bags for home use.
• Naturally Iowa organic milk comes in corn-based plastic bottles. 

4. Some natural-foods stores offer agri-based, compostable shopping bags. Because they cost stores a bit more than conventional plastic bags, it may take time for this change to become widespread. Let your grocery’s management know compostable options matter to you.

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