Re: trail building with recycled products

Jim McNelly (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:53:48 -0500

> Although the following article is about degradable plastics, it speaks
about some of the harmful ingredients of plastics and the dust, or residue,
they can create over time. This concerns me.
Hi Lynn,

I read the above mentioned article and wish to make the following
comments. When the article was written, in 1990, nearly all the so
called degradable plastics were ordinary LDPE plastics with starch
binders. As the article pointed out, the plastics only reduced into
ever smaller pieces, or what is often referred to as ERPS, ever reducing
particle size. Smaller does not equate to degradable, although many
shredding systems manufacturers would have us believe otherwise. The
degradable plastics of that era were largely a hoax; a green skinned
scam on the part of mega corn producers to create a new market for corn
products preying upon the sensitivities of environmentalists.

My point is that degradable plastics have come a long way since 1990,
and there are new generations on the market that do truly degrade in the
composting process into harmless organic byproducts such as carbon
dioxide and humus. A misperception of degradable plastics in 1990 was
that they would reduce litter and decrease the volume of material in
landfills. None of the current manufacturers I have made contact with
make such dubious claims. The current claims are that these plastics
degrade in the composting process such that they do not need to be
removed before hand or that they become a nuisance or contaminant in the
finished compost.

New generations of degradable bags are being used for collection of
leaves and grass clippings and allowed to commingle with the material as
it goes into the compost piles. As such, they are just as degradable as
are paper bags. New products on the market include cutlery, straws,
cups, lids and plates. If they were widely used in cafeterias and
restaurants, post consumer food products could be composted more

I also noted that the article was an official publication from the
Environmental Defense Fund, a group that has not been very favorable to
the composting industry. EDF resisted the development of the Source
Separated Composting Association in 1992, took a hostile position on the
issue of composting paper, even non-recyclable paper, and outraged many
environmental minded composters with their shameful national
advertisment making a mockery of earthworm growers with the final insult
"This is not the way to recycle".

A more current analysis of the degradability issue would be more
appropriate in 1997 and sources other than EDF on the issue of
composting and degradability would have more credibility.

Jim~ McNelly
NaturTech Composting Systems, Inc. 320-253-6255
Information on Composting and Sustainable Futures
The Humusphere HTTP://