Is home composting of bioplastics possible?
One of the main characteristics and benefits of bioplastics is that most of them are compostable. But what does this even mean? When bioplastics have the label of 100% compostable, usually it means, they are able to break down into basic elements like water, carbon dioxide, biomass, and inorganic compounds in a composting environment without creating toxic elements, and moreover creating nutrient-rich soil.
Home composting has many ecological benefits, such as reducing (not completely eliminating) greenhouse gasses, reducing the amount of food waste sent to the landfills, and the production of nutrient-rich compost for private gardening use.
If you have your home compost pile in the backyard, you might think you could just discard your certified compostable bioplastics there. But unfortunately, this is not the complete truth. Even though bioplastics might be compostable, they do require a specific composting environment with a precise balance of high heat for a prolonged period of time, moisture, and oxygen.
Some producers of bioplastic are currently adapting bioplastics in order for them to have the ability to decompose in home compost piles. These bioplastics are tested according to the home composting conditions like lower temperatures and longer dwell times. We can already find certifications that attest to this ability. The certifier TÜV AUSTRIA BELGIUM offers home compostability certification “Home Compostable DIN” and CERTCO has a certification “Home OK COMPOST” according to the Australian standards. Discard only products with these and similar home composting certifications in your own pile.
Contrary to home composting, big industrial composting sites are capable to effectively process large volumes of municipal and commercial waste. There are three techniques used in industrial composting: windrow, in-vessel, and aerated static pile composting. Not all of them can handle all kinds of materials.
For bioplastic composting aerated static pile composting is mostly used. In these piles organic waste is mixed, and it is heavily aerated by layering loose agents like wood chips, or newspapers. The pile is often installed over pipes that help with the airflow, additionally, air blowers activated by timers or temperature sensors can be used to create the specific conditions needed to break up the material. This process can last from 3 to 6 months.