Are compostable mailers really compostable?

Are compostable mailers really compostable?

In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for eco-friendly packaging options. Many companies are now using compostable mailers as an alternative to traditional plastic packaging. These mailers are marketed as being environmentally friendly and compostable. But are they really compostable?

Compostable mailers are made from materials such as cornstarch, plant cellulose, and other biodegradable materials. These materials are designed to break down naturally over time and turn into compost, just like other organic materials. The idea behind compostable mailers is that they can be used for packaging, then sent to a composting facility where they will break down and become part of the soil.

However, the reality is that compostable mailers may not be as compostable as they claim to be. There are several factors that may affect their ability to fully break down in a composting environment.

Firstly, the conditions in a home composting system are not always ideal for compostable mailers. Composting requires the right balance of moisture, temperature, and oxygen. If these conditions are not met, the mailers may take longer to break down or not break down at all. In a home composting system, where conditions can vary, there is no guarantee that the mailers will fully compost.

Another issue is the lack of standardized certifications for compostable packaging. While there are some certifications available, such as the "compostable" logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), these certifications are not widely recognized. Without a standardized certification process, it can be difficult to determine if a compostable mailer meets industry standards for compostability.

Furthermore, compostable mailers may require specific composting facilities to break down properly. Industrial composting facilities have controlled conditions that are designed to break down organic materials efficiently. However, not all areas have access to these facilities, and it may not be feasible to send compostable mailers to them. In these cases, the mailers may end up in a landfill where they will not break down as intended.

It is also worth mentioning that compostable mailers may not break down in a timely manner. While the materials used in these mailers are biodegradable, they may take months or even years to fully compost. This means that if the mailers are not sent to a proper composting facility, they can still contribute to waste accumulation in the environment.

So, what can be done to ensure the compostability of mailers? Firstly, it is important to choose mailers that are certified by reputable organizations. Look for certifications such as the BPI's "compostable" logo or the European standard EN 13432. These certifications provide assurance that the mailers have met specific compostability requirements.

Additionally, it is crucial to properly dispose of compostable mailers. If you have access to an industrial composting facility, send the mailers there. These facilities can break down the mailers under ideal conditions, ensuring that they compost properly. If an industrial composting facility is not available, check if there are any local composting programs or initiatives that accept compostable packaging. By sending the mailers to these programs, you can ensure they are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

In conclusion, while compostable mailers hold promise as an eco-friendly packaging alternative, their compostability is not guaranteed in all situations. The lack of standardized certifications, the need for specific composting facilities, and the time required for full composting are all factors that can affect their ability to break down properly. To ensure the compostability of mailers, it is crucial to choose certified products and to dispose of them in appropriate composting facilities. By doing so, we can minimize our impact on the environment and move towards a more sustainable future.


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