do compostable bags break down in landfill

Release time:2023-09-28 Number of views: 30

Do Compostable Bags Break Down in Landfill?


In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the impact of plastic waste on the environment. To combat this problem, an alternative to traditional plastic bags has emerged – compostable bags. These bags are often marketed as a more eco-friendly option, as they claim to break down quickly and naturally in landfills. However, there is a debate surrounding the true environmental impact of these bags. In this article, we will explore whether or not compostable bags truly break down in landfills and assess their overall sustainability.

What are Compostable Bags?

Compostable bags are made from natural materials such as plant starches, cellulose, and other biodegradable polymers. Unlike traditional plastic bags, which can take hundreds of years to decompose, compostable bags are designed to break down in a shorter period of time, under the right conditions. These bags are often labeled with the certifications such as "compostable" or "biodegradable," which gives consumers the impression that they are environmentally friendly.

Landfill Conditions:

In order for compostable bags to break down in a landfill, specific conditions need to be met. Landfills are not necessarily conducive to the decomposition of organic materials. Due to the lack of oxygen and sunlight, which are necessary for natural degradation processes, the decomposition rate in landfills is much slower compared to composting facilities.

The Role of Microorganisms:

Compostable bags require the presence of specific microorganisms to initiate the decomposition process. These microorganisms primarily exist in composting facilities where ideal conditions are maintained. However, the same cannot be said for landfills. Landfills are filled with a diverse range of waste, including non-biodegradable materials, which compete for the limited resources needed for decomposition.

Time Frame for Decomposition:

While compostable bags have the potential to decompose in a composting facility within a few months, the process is much slower in landfills. Estimating the exact time frame is challenging due to the varying conditions within different landfills. However, it is believed that compostable bags can take several years to breakdown fully in such an environment. Additionally, during the decomposition process, methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas, is released, contributing to climate change.

The Challenge of Certification:

One of the challenges associated with compostable bags is the lack of a standardized certification system. Multiple organizations have different standards and tests to determine the compostability of a product. This lack of uniformity has led to confusion among consumers, as some bags labeled as compostable may not actually meet the necessary requirements to break down properly.

Sustainable Alternatives:

While compostable bags may not be the ideal solution to reducing plastic waste in landfills, there are other sustainable alternatives available. Reusable bags made from fabric materials, such as canvas or hemp, offer a more long-term and environmentally friendly option. These bags can be used multiple times and have a significantly reduced environmental impact compared to both traditional plastic and compostable bags.


In conclusion, compostable bags are designed to break down in a composting facility rather than a landfill. While they may eventually degrade in landfills, they do so at a much slower rate due to the unfavorable conditions and lack of specific microorganisms. Sustainable alternatives like reusable bags provide a more practical and environmentally friendly option. It is crucial to be aware of the limitations of compostable bags and make informed choices when it comes to reducing our impact on the environment.