Sun Chips Bag-05-21-10

Sun Chip Bag Vermicomposting

As you might guess, I had intended to get this update posted on Friday, when I had a look at the Sun Chips bag in my big backyard worm bin. It had been 15 days since the bag was added to that system (see “Sun Chip Bag Vermicomposting” for my first installment), so I thought it might be interesting to see if anything had happened yet.

It took me quite some time to even locate the bag – I was starting to wonder if the worms were a lot more effective than I’d given them credit for! Well, I guess you could still say the worms in this bin are being “effective”, since they had effectively lowered the level of material (including the bag) a fair bit since I put it in there. After some digging I did finally manage to locate it, and couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of disappointment to see the bright vibrant colors still essentially unchanged, and hear that the bag was still ridiculously loud when handled.

Upon closer inspection I did however notice that something seems to have started colonizing the surface of the bag. I suspect it is some sort of fungi, but it is hard to say for sure.

Sun Chips Bag Decay

I think I will let the bag sit undisturbed for a month or so before checking on it again since it looks like we are in for a pretty lengthy experiment!

Will be interested to find out if others have been checking on their bags, and if so, what (if any) changes have been observed thus far!

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    • Jennifer S
    • May 25, 2010

    I shredded a bag and put it into my Worm Inn several weeks ago. So far there are still sparkle strips in the bin, but I haven’t really inspected more than that. If they are still sparkly when I put them into the garden that will be fine with me.

  1. My Sunchips bag is a month and a half in as far as composting and the only thing different is that the color has faded a bit. Are their claims a bit lofty? I tend to think so.

    • Michael from Roanoke
    • May 26, 2010

    Dear Bentley, I was just wondering if you set up a control and hot-composted a Sunchip bag? It seems by the pictures on the back that that’s what the bag’s designers had in mind. I can think of plenty of items that my worms can go through slowly but that they absolutely devour after some traditional composting. As always, thanks for your wonderful and informative site.

  2. Bentley,

    Great article. Basic but great. If fast food company’s are going to make it easier for consumer to compost, somebody should find out if their claims are true. If not it’s just more lipstick on the “piggie”.

    You get me thinking and I’m wanting to do the same experiment now with soldier grubs and a bag of sun chips in a BioPod and see it speeds up the process more.

    Anyway… I do believe they need to also make sure the food itself can decompose, as I hear McDonalds happy meals can take over a year:–gone-off.html


    • Bentley
    • May 26, 2010

    JENNIFER – Cutting it into strips should help to speed up the process (more surface area for microbial attack). Would be interested to know how the strips are coming along by the time they end up in harvested vermicompost.
    RED – I would have expected a little more than faded color after a month and a half, but they do mention that a “hot active pile” is best. Did you try a hot compost approach, or cooler composting (such as worm composting)?
    MICHAEL – I haven’t tried hot composting one of these bags (yet – haha). Really, all I’m trying to do here is see what will happen when the bag is left to decompose in a mesophilic system. More curiosity than anything. I certainly don’t expect to see the bag break down nearly as quickly as the hot composting time-line they show on the back of the bag. Should be interesting to see how it looks in a few months though.

    • Mary
    • May 26, 2010

    I put my Sun Chips bag in my worm trench 5 weeks ago and just checked it a few days ago. No change in the bag. I’ve now put it into my compost tumbler to see if the heat well help it along. With the 90 degree days we’ve had here, hopefully it will start to break down soon.
    Hmmm….90 degree days, good for Tumbler composting, not so good for a 60 degree weather fan.

    • Anna
    • May 29, 2010

    I reported on the first Sun Chip post that my bag had decomposed in about 6 weeks in my hot compost pile. However, I just turned my pile again and found it in nearly perfect condition–there’s just one singe mark on it.

    • LARRY D.
    • May 30, 2010

    I saw somewhere you can compost a paper mate pen if you remove the ink.And a target gift card.I think i’ll try that.Those bags are like nails on a chaulkboard to a snacker like me!

    • Mary
    • June 18, 2010

    My Pre-K class also placed a Sun Chip bag in our garden and buried it. We have worms in there but not a lot. We checked after 4 weeks and it looked exactly like it did when we buried it. The students were disappointed since I had read the bag’s claim to them. I haven’t checked since mid-May when school was out. We have had a hot wet summer. I wonder if the weather conditions affect the decomposing any?
    teacher for the Rosey Rabbits Class

    • Aura
    • June 25, 2010

    Given the average amount of “spin” commonly used in advertising claims…
    I wouldn’t be surprised if “using a flame thrower to reduce something to ashes, then burying the ashes in the garden” might be legitimately used to justify claims of “biodegradable” via a “hot composting” method!

    • Barb V.
    • June 26, 2010

    I put a bag in my in-ground pit on May 20. As of today, it looks about like the picture you provide. Mine has some blotches. When I scrape away the layer of black castings, a some of the silver part is gone. But this sucker looks like it is going to last for a looooong time! I thought my amped-up California Reds would make short work of that flimsey stuff. ‘Course they’ve had water melon and other summer fruit to distract them. So how are your Great Northern Reds doing?

  3. okay, so for a science project i decomposed sunchip bags too and got the same sort of discoloration. i don’t think its fungi… i think the decomposition process is beginning, but only on the surface of the bag. 😀

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