Mother Earth News Finds Compostable Packaging Claims Half-Baked

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The environmental magazine’s tests reveal materials don’t completely break down in home compost piles.

Mother Earth News magazine logo

While we applaud companies’ efforts to develop more sustainable packaging materials, they need to be upfront about what their products will and won’t do

With more companies marketing plant-based bioplastic packaging as “100-percent biodegradable,” Mother Earth News, the leading magazine dedicated to green living, put these claims to the test.

The result? In most cases, the magazine’s lab tests found that “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastics do not decompose in home compost piles. The report also concludes that some companies’ labeling claims are incomplete and misleading.

“While we applaud companies’ efforts to develop more sustainable packaging materials, they need to be upfront about what their products will and won’t do,” says Cheryl Long, editor in chief of Mother Earth News.

Mother Earth News commissioned Woods End Laboratories, an independent facility that specializes in evaluating composts, soils and organic wastes, to test five types of bioplastic shopping bags.

Researchers followed industry standards (ASTM D6400) and monitored the bags for 25 weeks in three scenarios:

  •     Composted at 140 F (60 C), which resembles commercial composting conditions
  •     Composted at 77 F (25 C), the typical temperature in home composting conditions
  •     Standard soil at 77 F, because some brands claim to disintegrate in soil as well as compost

The team found that none of the bags were completely compostable in typical home composting conditions. Only one of the samples, Mater-Bi made by Novamont, was about halfway degraded after 25 weeks, while BioTuf and Bag-To-Nature brands did well only at the higher temperatures found in commercial composting conditions. Oxo-Biodegradable, which had two samples in the study, didn’t break down at all in any of the scenarios.

The complete report and photos can be found online as well as featured in the June-July issue of Mother Earth News, on sale May 25.

About Mother Earth News
Mother Earth News ( is the Original Guide to Living Wisely. Launched in 1970, each bimonthly issue of Mother Earth News features practical and money-saving information on organic gardening; do-it-yourself projects; cutting energy costs; using renewable energy; green home building and remodeling; rural living; and conscientious, self-sufficient lifestyles.

About Ogden Publications
Ogden Publications Inc. ( is the leading information resource serving the sustainable living, rural lifestyle, farm memorabilia and classic motorcycle communities. Key brands include Mother Earth News, Natural Home, Utne Reader, Capper’s and Grit. Ogden Publications also provides insurance and financial services through its Capper’s Insurance Service division.

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Cheryl Long, editor in chief

Brandy Ernzen, brand manager
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