eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Time to call BS

Posted by Luke on February 23, 2010

It’s amazing how much crap is out there. I keep stumbling across articles that contain outright false information.  Wouldn’t an Information Police Force be nice?  Sadly, consumers have to be incredibly smart to know what is BS and what isn’t.  Well, I’m ready to start calling BS on ill informants.  

The latest BS I’m calling out relates to this article in the Washington Post that falsely stated that “biodegradable” cups emit methane gas in landfills.  There appears to be a huge misnomer that PLA (the corn plastic used to produce compostable cups) emits methane when disposed of in a landfill, thus some writers claim it’s worse for the environment than plastic made out of petroleum.  Politely, I’m calling Bullshit. 

(Sidenote: if you’re not a PLA nerd like me, PLA is made from corn and will turn back into dirt if composted in a commercial composting environment, of which there are too few, which means that most PLA products are disposed of landfills like the majority of conventional products.  As a result, there are some people who refuse to use the material unless it is composted.  This ignores the front-end benefit of PLA which is that it’s made from an annually harvested plant instead of oil, and it emits fewer greenhouse gases to produce than oil-based plastics – it has a smaller carbon footprint.) 

Plain and simple, PLA does not emit methane into the atmosphere if disposed of in a landfill.  I won’t bore you with the science, but you can read more details in this presentation.  Besides, the Clean Air Act requires landfills to capture their methane which would mean that if science were proven wrong and PLA broke down after several decades in that environment, the methane would be captured and wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere.  Also, if you want to read more about PLA not biodegrading in landfills, similar to how other conventional products don’t biodegrade in landfills, you can read more about it here.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the benefits of PLA in future posts.

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