Part I of this article summarized the scope and research methods for a recent study at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands that analyzed the fate of compostable packaging in an industrial composting plant. The central aim of the study, “The fate of (compostable) plastic products in a full scale industrial organic waste treatment facility,” was to gather more empirical data on whether the disintegration rate of compostable products is sufficient to be compatible with current organic waste treatment practices in the Netherlands. In an industrial organic waste treatment trial, nine different compostable plastic products were tested: organic waste collection bags, plant pots, tea bags, coffee pads, coffee capsules, and fruit labels.
The full-scale trials were conducted at Valor in Sint Oedenrode, which annually processes about 45,000 metric tons of source separated municipal organic waste (GFT). As described in Part I, Valor runs a batch process in aerated “tunnels.” Duration of a single organic waste treatment cycle is 10 to 12 days. Materials goes through 2 cycles. The regular process does not have a separation step before the organic waste enters the composting unit, which means that all (plastic) products present in the organic waste will undergo the composting process. Sieving takes place between the first and second composting cycles.
Part II of this article discusses the results of the full-scale trials. It also includes findings from Wageningen University & Research’s detailed analysis of the composition of the current contamination of GFT by conventional plastics.