Saturday, September 12, 2009

You Know What They Say About Hard Molded Corn Solids...

Fifteen months ago, I returned to CollegeTown5000 to watch the Olympic Trials. Such events are all about the ecofriendliness in our enlightened age, and when I bought my diet cola -- for those were the days, friends, when I still drank the diet cola -- it came in a special cup. A cup which, the vendors were clearly compelled to announce to every single customer, was "made from corn, environmentally sustainable, and 100% compostable."

"If it's made of corn, could I just roast it and eat it?" I asked the bustling, older cashier. "No, it's for COMPOST," she replied, speaking slowly as if to a child. "Like with food scraps and yard scraps. Not for eating!"

Well, do I not live in the City of Roses? Of course, I compost, and indeed I would be willing to bet that my compost pile could kick your compost pile's ass. So I made sure to hang on to my 100% compostable cup (not 90% compostable! not 98% compostable!) all through the rest of my journey. And when I returned home, I ceremonially placed the vessel in my compost pile, stirred it into the center of the heap, and forgot about it.

Come April, I dug into the rich, dark earth that had magically appeared where the yard and kitchen scraps had once stood. But the groovy feeling of oneness with the planet was suddenly interupted by a crackling sound, as what should I find but this:




Well, I'm no sceptic. Perhaps the magic was happening at a deep cellular level, and the cup just needed a little more time to commence its dissolution into a couple grams of prime topsoil. So I buried it back inside the pile, where it sat through the long, hot summer, doubtless undergoing a total organic transformation.

It surfaced the other day. It looks like this:

Call me crazy, but I'm not sure the compostable corn cup is quite ready for prime time. I'm going to try roasting it.

15 comments:

boo said...

So of course I Googled these. (That's what happens when Saturday morning cartoons no longer thrill I guess.)One article suggests that they must be commercially composted. Kind of misleading. If it is any consolation, they cost more to use. Ha!

I do wonder how long it would take for that thing to break down. The article says over the long haul in a landfill it will, but dang.

Rebel said...

Now this is highly informative... I wonder how many new 'environmentally friendly' products really are?

Jennifer said...

What's the difference between everyday, garden-variety composting and industrial composting, I wonder?

fingerstothebone said...

Hey, I did the very same thing with a cup I got from the local coffee shop last July (a year ago). And last I checked (probably this spring), it was still looking quite cup-like. I told the coffee shop owner, they called the vendor, and was told the same thing -- must be composted by a commercial compoter

Katy Wolk-Stanley said...

Your post showed up in my comments section as I just gave out "Boo-Hiss" awards.

http://thenonconsumeradvocate.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/book-that-red-carpet-because-its-time-for-the-boo-hiss-awards/

I wonder how many people have access to commercial composters? We Portlanders certainly don't, which makes greenwashed products like these completely pointless. Worse than pointless because they dupe those of us who might otherwise make sustainable choices.

Boo-Hiss to "compostable" cups.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

Sierra Black said...

I'm also here from the Non-Consumer Advocate. I've had this same experience, many times, with a friend who persists in putting "compostable" plastics into my backyard compost bin.

The trick, I think, is heat. In a landfill or industrial composting operation, things get much, much hotter than they do in home compost (even in a long hot summer). I believe these plastics compost in industrial waste facilities. They probably break down faster and with less toxic byproducts then their petroleum based cousins.

But they are not for home composting, and the marketing around them has been very misleading. Boo-hiss indeed.

mydogischelsea said...

"100% compostable*"

*Over a span of 40,000 years.

Kadonkadonk said...

Ok, you've managed to get my blood boiling!! Talk about misleading! I'm so annoyed with the green-washing of consumerism.

d said...

see? i'm officially done with all of it. every time i think i'm doing something right, something comes along to show that it doesn't really work as promised. grrrrrr.

DrSchnell said...

Yeah, we've got some of those out in our compost pile (which, to be fair, is really more "a bunch of kitchen scraps thrown in a pile" than a proper compost pile) that have been sitting around for a couple of years.

Ben said...

Wait... isn't that the same picture twice?

margaret said...

I agree with Ben, and sense something fishy with the photography. The dirt specks are in the same places; the cracks, too!

There goes your Pulitzer.

Michael5000 said...

OF COURSE it's the same picture, silly beloved readers! It's a humorous way of underscoring the failure of the item to do anything but break and get dirty. See?

Christine said...

And here I was ready to go digging through our compost bin at 10 pm to see if our "compostable" cups had decayed appropriately.

Jenners said...

Liar Liar Pants On Fire!!! (The makers of those cups ... not you.) I sometimes have suspicions about things like that ... and now I know I should.