LCA Studies show Compostable Products may not be as Green as You Think

    Recent studies highlight that compostable products may not be the best answer for the environment. The composting process requires oxygen and, for the most part, landfills are sealed, airtight — and therefore oxygen-free — containers within the ground. "Since landfill conditions are generally anaerobic [i.e., without oxygen], these materials do not 'compost'; instead they either persist or break down anaerobically," Peter Canepa, a life cycle assessment specialist with the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon

    However, what exactly happens to compostable materials in landfills is up for debate. For the plastic-like compostable material PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from corn, one study found that in landfills PLA breaks down anaerobically to release methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, Canepa said. 

    But another study found that PLA doesn't break down at all in a landfill and therefore does not produce significant greenhouse gas emissions, Canepa said. LiveScience says that what's clear is that if a compostable item, such as a straw, winds up in the trash, it will not be composted. Canepa said the bigger question is how single-use items can be avoided. Read more here;