The devil in the details: Compostable versus Oxy-Biodegradable

Garbage bags are used in every household and commercial establishment. These bags have a very short life and very often end up in the landfills. Luckily, there are substitutes available that can biodegrade under right. But it is important to know what kind of plastic garbage bag can biodegrade.

If you were to look out for eco-friendly options in garbage bags, you will come across bags marked differently as Oxy-Biodegradable, Bio-Degradable or Compostable. Very often the manufacturers hide the real material used for manufacturing the bag.

The right bio-degradable garbage bag will be made from plant-based polymers (like ones made from corn). These are the ones that can degrade easily under common temperatures (around 30 degrees Celsius) and with enough air available. They can be used as manure since they biodegrade within 3 months if left buried in soil. The manufacturer must clearly mention the material source and specify that the bag is indeed “Compostable”. The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) gives certifications to such manufacturers ICPA (Indian Compostable Polymer Association) gives a unique barcode for such bags.

The other varieties of garbage bags are marketed as Oxy-Biodegradable. Oxy-Biodegradable bags are just like traditional plastic but degrade into harmful micro plastic faster in open environment. They are largely another green-washing product floating in the market. They are not truly eco-friendly and are made from traditional crude-oil petrochemicals. They will be cheaper compared to compostable garbage bags, largely because they are not very different from traditional plastic garbage bags.

Therefore, to make a change, buy garbage bags branded as compostable and prefer those which are compostable under ambient conditions. These are usually made from plant starch and the manufacturer must clearly mention it on the product. These garbage bags are however, not recyclable, since composting is the only way to dispose them. They cannot be mixed with other plastic products for recycling. The only way to dispose them is to compost them or send them to industrial composters (for certain biodegradable plastics which compost at temperatures of 70-80 degrees Celsius).

Check out our marketplace for several such manufacturers of Compostable garbage bags.