Sunchip Bag Update

A bit of a funny update for those of you who – like me – were interested in those “compostable” Sunchip bags when they started showing up in stores (and on TV)!

Firstly, thanks very much to Anna K. for sharing an interesting article (about these bags) recently! Looking back at my first post about my Sunchip bag vermicomposting experiment (see “Sun Chip Bag Vermicomposting“), I see that I made a joke about them being “the loudest bag[s] on the face of the planet”.

Well, it seems I wasn’t the only one who felt this way! Apparently their was such a public backlash re: the ruckus these bags make that the company (Frito Lay) created a new bag!

Here is a blurb form the article (link to follow):

The company introduced a biodegradable bag for the snacks in April of 2009 with a big marketing effort to play up its environmentally friendly nature as it was made from plants and not plastic and could break down in compost.

However, customers complained the bag was too loud. The stiffer material made it give off noise of that, measured in decibels, is about as loud as a busy city street. The criticism grew so deafening that the company switched back to its original bag for most flavors in October.

See full article here: Frito-Lay hopes new SunChips bag quiets critics

As loud as a busy street?!?! That’s nuts!

It seems another issue that was equally (or even more) annoying for all us composters, though, was the fact that the bags didn’t even seem to break-down at all! I am going to see if I can find the one I tossed in my backyard composter last year – I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to look almost the same as it did the last time I dug it up (last summer)!

Anyway – thanks again to Anna for sharing!
Thought you guys might get a kick out of that.

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    • Alexa
    • March 3, 2011

    I have a question about biodegradable/compostable plastic in general; I’ve heard it said (BioCycle magazine) that compostable plastics should NOT be added to one’s compost pile unless it’s OMRI certified because when bio-plastic breaks down it releases polymers that are essentially regular plastic, and which in turn release chemicals into the soil which can be re-absorbed by plants planted in that soil. So if one is making dirt for use with a vegetable garden or other consumable plants, one should probably avoid bioplastics. What say the worms?

    • Jason Kalka
    • March 3, 2011

    Well if it’s a Sun Chips bag, I don’t think you have to worry about them breaking down. I have 2 of them I keep running across in my compost from right around the same time Bentley put his in.

    • Lorne
    • March 4, 2011

    i can confirm at least one brand of compostable garbage bag is still very much a plastic bag after 5 months in a worm bin

    we were wondering if uv light is necessary to ‘compost’ these bags

    • Larry D.
    • March 7, 2011

    They didn’t last long on our shelves from what i saw.Canada still had some.But they were so loud it was disturbing in the grocery store! I literally avoided the chips aisle,and two aisles over,because everybody was checking to see how loud they really were.No wonder libraries don’t allow food! It was almost worse for that company than when Coke changed formulas.And they were trying to do a good thing!
    Is Coke really the original formula since they use corn syrup instead of sugar? Seemed the old returnable glass bottles tasted better.Maybe it’s that plastic bottle?

    • Shirley
    • March 8, 2011

    I cut my bag up into thin strips to try and get it to break down faster. The layers of plastic seemed to separate but then that’s about as far as it went and I had them in there for over a year. I’m picking them out now since it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.

    • John in Huntington Beach
    • March 10, 2011

    And adding to the aggravation is that the bags should not be tossed into the regular recycling barrel because even a small amount of such items will contaminate and render other plastic items non-recyclable.

    Frito Lay usually does a better job of thinking things through.

  1. I had a nice warm, well mixed and watered pile break down completely, and the Sun Chip bag didn’t change at all except for a bit of a watermark. I don’t care how loud they are. I don’t think they should be considered compostable. Maybe they could claim them to be biodegradable, but that might only justify littering.

    • Recycle
    • March 15, 2011

    Thanks for writing about this. Have you heard the good news that Frito Lays has decided to replace its noisy Sun Chips bag. Something else that’s related to it is this video I saw on the GreenopolisTV youtube channel. Check it out.

  2. I am so happy you wrote about this because I deal with this on a regular basis. From a worm side I do not have much input, but from a industrial composter with about 40 acres of year round composting, many compostable packaging and materials are a fad. There are many organizations trying to create standards for compostable items. The major company is BPI that has a new compostable label trying to be put as a standard across the US.

    However, for all you backyard composters, most of these items will not compost in your backyard compost heap. Backyard compost piles are usually not big enough to keep the temperature levels high enough for the length of time necessary to actually break down these items. We run our 900 yd aerobic composting windrows on a ten week 130 to 160 degree cycle with almost daily turning until the materials are fully digested by the microbial soil web. This doesn’t happen often in backyard composting sites. Right on the SunChips bag it says, only compostable in industrial settings and also says this on their newly redone website that has a pdf proving that it is compostable. We have and can compost these items.

    A big composting company that has a great list of compostable items based on their process is Cedar Grove Composting. They certify compostable products and have certified the SunChips bag. But remember these are huge composting sites. For us, we windrow compost and have problems composting high temperature items; however, what is the point of composting items that need to be broken down over 160? THERE ISN’T! Static pile compost heaps actually can catch fire at temps over 160 degrees! This doesn’t promote microbial life. Oh the fads of the new green marketing of compostable materials.

    As for if these materials are even beneficial in compost is a great question. I’ll check it out. Thanks for the great post.

    • Bentley
    • March 26, 2011

    Thanks very much for sharing that, Cody! Really interesting.

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