Jun 1 - Study Shows Biodegradable Products Cause Harm When Landfilled


The science behind "biodegradable" products has always been at the core of the debate about their environmental soundness, but a new study exposes a different side of the issue.

Researchers from North Carolina State University concluded in their study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, that because of the rapid breakdown exhibited in "biodegradable" products, they emit greenhouse gases within landfills before gas collection systems are installed; systems that would normally capture the gases before they enter the atmosphere. This fact is made possible by federal laws, which only require gas collection systems to be installed two years after burying the waste, according to a Plastics News article. Since "biodegradable" products are typically designed to breakdown much quicker, the study concludes that more methane production will occur.

Currently, in California, it is illegal to label certain plastic products as "biodegradable" thanks to CAW supported legislation. The term "biodegradable" is not recognized by the most commonly used ASTM standards, and often leads consumers into thinking it is okay to landfill or litter because of its reduced environmental impact.

To read more about how why "biodegradable" is a misleading term, click here.

This year, CAW is trying to expand the current state law to ban the advertising of all plastic products as "biodegradable." To learn more about this bill, SB 567 (Truthful Advertising in Plastics), visit our legislative page.

While this study is not limited to just plastic products, SB 567 sets California in the right direction by attempting to offset the inherent discrepancies between consumer expectations about "biodegradable" products, manufacturer’s scientific standards, and federal landfill regulations.