After my recent post Some Green Questions, I decided to write to the companies that manufacture Glad and Hefty trash bags and ask what they were doing to address the environmental impact of their trashbags. Both replied to me promtly – within one day of my email inquiry.
Their responses were quite similar, that the issue is not so much biodegradability of their products but of the use of landfills. I have excerpted their comments below.
From Shelley Preston
Consumer Response Representative
GLAD Consumer Services
In some ways, the issue of biodegradability obscures very real environmental problems; for instance, biodegradable products and packages which are disposed of in landfills will, under most circumstances, never degrade at all because landfills are air-tight and enclosed in plastic, thus preventing natural decomposition. In short, even those products and packages capable of biodegrading have no opportunity to decompose when placed in landfills. Compounding this is that we are rapidly running out of space for landfills; this sort of solid waste disposal simply is not the long-term solution we’re all seeking for protecting our environment. Again, recycling and solid waste reduction are the most viable long-term solutions and the ones on which we at The Clorox Company are focusing our efforts.
To help maximize recycling efforts, we need to develop more uses for recycled materials. Helping to create a market for these materials ultimately will encourage more recycling efforts and make recycling more convenient for the consumer.
From Arlene Stafford
Consumer Affairs Representative
Pactiv Corporation (The Company that produces Hefty/Kordite Products)
Pactiv carefully considers the environmental impact of our products and
processes and continues to research the most environmentally responsible
practices for manufacturing our products. Pactiv does not currently offer a
biodegradable trash bag; however, all Pactiv trash bags contain recycled
plastic, including our Renew line, which contains 65% recycled plastic and 44% post consumer
plastic. Currently, for most uses, trash bags made from recycled material
have a favorable environmental impact.
In theory, biodegradable products are preferable, but their disposal
presents a problem: Appropriate conditions are required for biodegradation
to effectively take place. Trash bags and their contents are disposed of in landfills,
where biodegradation occurs very slowly, if at all; landfills are designed
to minimize releases to air, groundwater, and sunlight, thereby retarding, if not
eliminating, decomposition of landfill contents.
Adequate conditions for biodegradation do occur in industrial composting
sites for organic materials such as food waste and yard waste, but
industrial composting accounts for a small portion of disposal in today’s solid waste stream.
Pactiv continues to research alternative materials and will consider the
use of new materials for applications that have a favorable environmental impact.
I know that we are running out of space for land-fills. Now I’ll have to research what’s being done on that front. I do plan to get a composter and rain barrel, I am recycling as much as I can, and have stopped buying paper napkins (I use cloth) ,dryer softener sheets (I use dryer balls), and bottled water (I use a Brita pitcher). Stay tuned.