|†||Compostable||Recyclable||Time in Landfill|
|Fiber||Yes||Sometimes, see Note 3||Slow to degrade|
|PLA||Sometimes, see Note 1||No||Very slow to degrade|
|Plastic||No||Sometimes, see Note 2||Very slow to degrade|
There are some new methods being studied to sort out PLA using near-infrared light or black light, so that you could just recycle these compostable containers with your other plastics, and leave it to the facility to figure out how to properly dispose of it.
But for now, follow these rules:
- Bring your own reusable bags or containers to the store when they do offer unpackaged produce or other items so you don’t need to use new bags
- Please consider asking companies like Trader Joe’s to eliminate packaging for some of their produce that doesnít need it, and failing that, to accept back their compostable containers for proper disposal.
- Look for a convenient place near you to take compostable containers (try health food stores or findacomposter.com)
- If you don’t compost at home yet, give it a try! It works great for fiber containers.
- If you can’t find a place to compost PLA, but can recycle the kinds of containers you get at the store, consider buying (and recycling) plastic containers instead.
Note 1: Not compostable at home, but ask at your local health food store if they accept drop-offs to ship to an industrial composting facility. You can also try findacomposter.com.
Note 2: Many recycling facilities have restrictions on recycling #1 or #2 plastics. They often don’t take “clamshell” containers (even if they say they take #1/#2), and only accept narrow neck bottles. Call your facility to check.
Note 3: Most communities donít recycle fiber with food contamination, but if your fiber container is clean (e.g. you only used it for product without dressing) you can recycle it as cardboard. If you can recycle pizza boxes in your area, you should be able to recycle the fiber containers no matter what.
Jon Fisher is a data management specialist for The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization. He has studied forestry, environmental biology, stream ecology, environmental engineering and how technology and spatial analysis can improve wildlife management at airports. He also loves to cook delicious vegan food. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
Image: Salad bar by edkohler/Flickr