I'd heard casual social talk that "compostable" plant-based dinnerware and other so-called bioplastics do not actually decompose, but I'd never seen any facts. So I jumped at the chance to do this cover story for Berkeley Engineer magazine on a big advance in compostable-plastic technology. Material science professor Ting Xu says better bioplastics are on the way.
“To be compostable, everything has to be gone in about 60 days,” says materials science and engineering professor Ting Xu. Plant-based plastics will biodegrade in composting conditions, meaning they’ll eventually break down completely, she says, but most won’t do it within the typical compost cycle, which forces municipal and industrial composting facilities to pull them from the mix. And when they end up in landfills, as they often do, they last as long as conventional plastics — forever. Read more.