Can you recycle bioplastic?

Evidence of some compost degradation from an Earth911 experiment with compostable Sun Chips bags. Does the same hold true for other bioplastic material?

Yes? No? Maybe?

The answer, unfortunately, is complicated. Bioplastic’s central attraction is that it is derived from a renewable resource, not that it’s necessarily any easier to breakdown. So answering whether you can recycle the material all depends on what you mean by “recycle,” or how long you think recycling will take. Earth911.com just ran an ultra-helpful guide to bioplastic recycling. Here’s the gist, and for more background, visit the links at the end of the article.

Can you throw it in with other plastic and recycling and expect it to get recirculated?  Probably not, at least, not in Columbia. Our city recycling facility can only manage #1 (polyethylene terephthalate) and #2 (high density polyethelyne) plastics. Anything else would contaminate it. But wait! Don’t throw that cup out; there are other options.

Can you compost bioplastic? Again, it’s complicated. Since bioplastics are derived from biological matter, technically it will decompose. However, many “compostable” materials will only break down in a commercial facility. Unfortunately, people may interpret the label as “throw this out the window on the highway and it will become soil.” You’ll definitely need to do more than throw packaging on the ground and expect it to disintegrate.

Learn more:

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One thought on “Can you recycle bioplastic?”

  1. Those are some really great resources Tina. I had been wondering about bioplastics and what exactly “compostable” meant as it seems to be the latest marketing word on “eco-friendly” bioplastics. So I’m wondering, doesn’t the City of Columbia do composting? Picking it up off of curbs, making compost out at the landfill, and selling folks loads of compost for dirt cheap. Then could we throw our “compostable” bioplastics in those curb-side compost bags?

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