Up until recently, recycling has been a great method of addressing plastic pollution in our society. It allows us to get a few more uses out of a product or material rather than simply just throwing it away. But realistically, material can only be recycled once or twice before it is of too low a quality to be recycled again. And, products made from recycled materials are usually of a lower quality than were the original products. Compostable bioplastics provide the opportunity for products to be remade indefinitely, creating a fully circular economy for packaging and other products. Here are 10 reasons why compost is better than recycling:
- Composting costs less . Collection and disposal costs for recycling are 7 TIMES HIGHER than those for composting (about $166 per ton for recycling vs. about $23 per ton for composting). Plus, compost done at home is absolutely free!
- Allows for more usage out of a material. Materials can normally only pass through the recycling system one to two times. This is due to the fact that the recycling process reduces the quality of traditional plastic materials every time they pass through the system, which essentially makes recycling actually downcycling. Composting on the other hand creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can then be used to grow a feedstock to create brand new material.
- Better beginnings. Compostable materials come from natural sources, like corn starch, sugar cane, and canola oil. Their production processes are carbon neutral, meaning they don’t have negative effects on our planet. The production of traditional plastic materials on the other hand releases a variety of toxic and unhealthy chemicals into the atmosphere.
- Can be done in your backyard. The entire compost process can be done for free in your home! This is not only cost-saving but will provide healthy soil for a home garden.
- Higher quality products. Because recycling produces lower-quality materials, the products made from those materials are also of lower quality. But compostables are always fresh materials, meaning a higher quality product for the customer.
- Decreases the volume of waste in landfills. Over 50% of the waste taken to landfills can actually be composted, the bulk of which is food waste. If we removed this waste and composted it, we could greatly decrease the amount of land space that is currently occupied by landfills.
- Creates nutrient-rich soils. Compost is made of decaying organic matter, which provides a wide variety of nutrients to the soil. These nutrients can then help to support plant growth and strong microbial communities.
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions. When compostables break down in landfills they release methane gas, which is one of the most common greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contributing to global warming. However, if those compostables are properly composted, then the carbon that makes up the methane gas is sequestered away in the soil, rather than released into the atmosphere.
- Increases biodiversity. Compost in the soil helps to attract a variety of microorganisms to assist in the composting process, as well as contribute to the microbial and insect biodiversity in the soil. Increased biodiversity indicates an overall healthier ecosystem.
- Compost protects from soil erosion. Having a healthy layer of compost helps to prevent valuable and fertile topsoil from being eroded away by wind or rain. This retains the fertility of the soil for future seasons.
While compost may seem like a new process to us, it’s not. Composting is a completely natural process that has been occurring on Earth since the first plants appeared. We have the ability to take advantage of this process so that we can not only have the convenience of single-use products but protect our planet as well. It provides such a wide range of opportunities that we currently aren’t making use of. Recycling was a great step in recognizing we needed to do something to alleviate the plastic pollution problem, but now we need to continue to build on the knowledge that we’ve obtained. We need to take action to continue protecting the planet, especially now. Compostables and composting are key opportunities to achieve this goal, and we need to continue developing and understanding these processes to protect our planet.