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Biodegradable materials - how best to compost?

 
pioneer
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There are some materials that are labeled as "biodegradable", although it sounds like they can take a few years to break down. Stuff like eco-friendly chip bags or biodegradable foam.

Are these things worth composting? I try to avoid buying things in non-compostable materials to begin with, but sometimes I get offered these types of trash by other people and I'm not sure if it would be safe to compost or if it would take too long to be worth it.

If time is the biggest issue with them, and burying them wouldn't cause problems, then I don't mind doing that - but I don't want to introduce them to the soil if they do more harm than good.
 
pollinator
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Hi Logan. Good question!

We have been wrestling with this problem in a few threads. We finally dug up the manufacturer's specifications, and the bottom line is that these items are only compostable in a large municipal composting operation, where they can maintain the long-term temperatures required.

It can't be done in a home composting setup. Hope this sorta helps.

 
Logan Byrd
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Hello Douglas, and thank you for the information!

That is unfortunate to hear. Do you know if they would break down using a different composting method, such as an anaerobic digester? Or if maybe something like bokashi could start the process and make it easier for traditional composting?

Worst case I can try taking those items to a commercial composting facility if I ever end up with some, but if nobody has explored those two avenues then I might try them out. It feels a bit misleading if they are advertised as biodegradable but only biodegrade under certain conditions, although that is better than a material that does not biodegrade at all.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I don't know enough about bokashi to speculate. I'm setting up an anaerobic "rot barrel" for weed seeds though. I'll throw a few compostable plastics and see what happens.
 
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I'm experimenting with including these biodegradable plastics in my home.composting that starts with bokashi. So far i haven't seen anything really break down much. Although take out beverage lid does.seem to have begun the process. Its gotten very.brittle and shattered up and the small pieces can't all be accounted for.

I also have , some thin film plastic from a local bakery that is supposed to be biodegradable and that has shown some signs of starting to host biology on it so im hopeful. The plastic silverware looks unchanged other than being dirty
 
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my solution to the biodegradable bags is to stick them in the wood stove with a hot fire. I figure if they are mostly made from plant ingredients why not.


Now the other thoughts i have it that these biodegradable materials might just take longer to break down than say some grass. Maybe they need to be thought of as like a corn stalk/root, or as a woody stick. Just keep adding them to the compost pile. sift the compost and add the materials which did not break down into the next compost pile and start the process over again. what does it matter if it takes a few trys/ compost piles?

There are big douglas fir logs in the forest which have been down for 80+ years. they still have not broken down.

just an idea!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Offhand, I recall the specs were 50 C for six months to compost this stuff. Maybe heat alone will help. Next time I do a biochar burn, I'm going to put some in a tin can and boil the heck out of it. Perhaps that might jumpstart the process?
 
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