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Compostable and biodegradable wet bags

  •   September 3rd, 2014
  •   Category: News
  •   Posted by: Ecodyger

What do we need wet waste bags for?

Wet waste bags are needed for the differentiated collection of wet waste, food discards coming from meals or kitchen preparation and similar which are produced by home or professional users. The aim is to facilitate all successive recycling phase at the composting plants, or biomass plants for biogas production.

Is their use mandatory?

Yes, it is mandatory for all Countries of the EU and generally in all industrialized Countries adopting politics of waste differentiated collection and waste recycling.

Can I use a normal plastic bag?

The use of normal plastic bags, those which were generally bought at the supermarket before the new eco-friendly version was introduced, is now forbidden. Those who try to use a plastic bag for wet waste collection will see their bag refused by the service in charge for waste collection and not collected, most of the time with a warning ticket.

What does the law say?

In Italy, for instance, since June 11th 2011, under the Legislative Decree D.Lgs. 205/2010, the collection of wet waste in compostable or paper bags certified by norm UNI EN 13432 became mandatory. For those who’d like to know more, we will simply say that it is an European Committee norm related to the characteristics a material must have to be defined compostable or biodegradable. The term compostable refers to norms linked to the non toxicity of the decomposed material if dispersed in nature.

Still curious?

Here i show this peculiar norm is titled: “Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation – Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging”
Headache yet? Calm down and let us simplify things for you.

Biodegradability is a characteristic of organic substances and few synthetic composts that can be decomposed into simpler substances by nature, or even better, by bacteria (for bacteria nerds, saprophytic bacteria) in a medium – long period of time. A non biodegradable material cannot be absorbed by the ground and remains in the same state in time, contributing to pollution in the area where it sits.

Compostability, instead, is the ability of an organic material to transform itself in a fast time into compost (used as natural fertilizer) through a specific aerobic degradation process (in presence of oxygen), called composting process. This process exploit the biodegradability of the organic materials and transform them into a final product that must respect other requirements defined by law to be used.

A compostable bag is biodegradable?

No, in fact it is not said that a biodegradable bag is compostable and that, following the related norm, it will disintegrate for 90% into fragments smaller than 2 mm once in contact with organic materials after three months and will degrade at least for 90% in carbon dioxide within no longer than 9 months.

Most of the times bags are said to be compostable when they are not or they even have writings that invite to use them for organic waste collection. An example is the plastic bags with the addition of ECM (Masterbatch Pellets).

What distinguishes the true bag compostable and biodegradable?

The real wet waste bag allows you to create a homogeneous wet waste where both container and contents share the same biodegradation properties. This then makes it more effective because it facilitates the collection of wet waste reduction and increases the quantities of organic waste intercepted, always guaranteeing the quality levels required for the final compost. So what? Check the following two things:

1. Check if your bag has one of the following marks on it:

marchi sacchetti biodegradabili

2. Check if on the bag there’s this phrase: bag conformed to UNI EN 13432-2002 or similar expressions that declare compliance to this specification.

esempio sacchetto conforme alla normativa

Certified compostable bags are now easy to find in the most common supermarkets as since January 1st 2011 the sale of plastic bags is forbidden. In reality, still many shops use plastic bags, but this is another story…

What happens if I use non compostable bags?

The use of non compostable bags can be fined following the Regulation consortium of municipal solid waste management with an administrative penalty ranging from a few tens of Euros (25.00) to over hundred Euros.

How much do compostable bags cost?

This is a good question. Usually, municipalities implementing recycling provide at the beginning of each year the citizens with an adequate number of bags for wet waste. But more and more often, while the tax on waste had a progressive increase in the recent years, many municipalities, in order to reduce their management costs, have also decreased the amount of various kinds of bags to be used for the differentiated collection eg. wet, plastic, solid, etc..
Hands up who has not noticed this trend? Certainly, and especially those who live in areas where the collection began several years ago. So, to the good citizen, good recycler, nothing remains but still put hand to the wallet and put in the shopping cart also this “new product.”

Commercial business must buy bags themselves. In this case, wet bags are usually of two different dimensions, big and small, with yearly expenses due to the large amount of organic waste produced (just think to a restaurant, hotel, canteen, hospital, fast food, etc). Let’s try to simplify things talking about two of the most distributed dimensions, also supplied by municipalities.

  • Bags 90x120cm – 110lt
  • Bags 42×42/45 – 10lt

For both dimensions, we can say that the paid cost for their purchase depends mainly from the quantities, eventual partial delivered during the year, and other sales variables like payment terms, etc.
These are data not easy to find, but more or less, for a medium sized municipality we can say:

  • 45, 60, 70 cent/per 110 Lt bag 
  • 8, 10 cent/per 10lt bag

While the paid cost by private citizens will always be the double of the cost paid by municipalities.
The difference is simple, a normal citizen will purchase a few dozen of bags, municipalities will buy hundreds of thousands of bags.

How much does a big hotel spend for wet bags?

There are hotels and hotels, individual hotels and hotel belonging to large international chains and therefore different costs. In large chains, purchase of consumer goods are made centrally, so with significantly lower costs than individual realities.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, a big 5 stars hotel in a big city in Europe, that belongs to an important international chain, with 300 rooms and more than 500 breakfasts served every day, spends around 13.000 Euro per year for wet waste bags.

How much does a big restaurant spend for wet bags?

A big restaurant serving an average of 2.000 meals per day with peaks of 3000-4000 meals during weekends or festivities spends at least 30.000 Euro per year for wet waste bags.

Wet waste bags create problems and costs

Finally, you will have already found at your expense that these new bags compostable and biodegradable are easy to cut and to break. Break easily in the presence of square shaped waste or pointed, break when they are not even been filled to half of their capacity due to the weight. They break even when you move them from the small bins to larger bin for collection, they break when you try to close them.

In all these cases, you probably witnessed the more or less copious spillage of dark, foul-smelling liquid known as leachate, with the annoying need to quickly clean the dirty surface to avoid the spread of odors and even worse, fail to prevent a receptacle of germs and bacteria. Same thing happened to the containers where the sacks and bags have leachate, even in this case the cleaning and sanitization last much longer and are more expensive. Especially in those periods when even a few drops of leachate can create quite a few hassles.

percolato

The big hotel of before, employs for a couple of days two people of its own staff to fulfill the wet waste movement operations. Time, a lot of time, is requested to place the small wet waste bags into bigger bags, then into the proper bins and the move of the lasts outside on the road for wet waste collection. The operations are followed by the successive withdraw of the collection bins which often must be done within 30 minutes.

After there will be cleaning operations of the bins or collection areas and of the stocking areas. If the cleaning is not done, the municipality may fine for the lack of maintenance of public space.
Think about how many times have you seen do these tasks to the staff of a great restaurant, hotel, cafeteria, hospital, fast food and how much of this time and cost could be spared to fulfill other more profitable activities in the economy of management structure.

The use of new technologies, such as Ecodyger, that dramatically reduce at source the wet-organic waste from 70% to 90% of the initial volume and weight, can reduce also the use and purchase of bags. The same advantages are also applied to all the operations of handling and cleaning of bins and places used for collection. In general, we can talk about a major reduction of approximately two-thirds of all the costs involved.

Did you know that in Switzerland the waste tax is paid partly on bags?

Yes, in several cantons of Switzerland such as Canton Ticino, in important city like Lugano.
The Regulations for municipal waste collection involves the introduction of a system of taxation mixed with a base fee and an annual fee on the bag. For the bag tax there will be a difference in cost between the various dimensions of the bags used. As an indication, the bag 17 lt could cost CHF 0.60, about 50 cents of Euro; up to CHF 4.80 for the bag of 110 liters or almost 4 Euro!

So a restaurant, hotel, hospital in the Canton Ticino, the less bags are used, the less will be the fee on waste. With systems like Ecodyger, as well as the practical benefits related to the reduced handling of wet waste, they would immediately gain a considerable save on the total annual fee paid.

And you, have you ever wondered how many wet bags you use in a year?

How much you spend on their purchase at your home or in your restaurant, hotel, catering, camping, hospital, etc..?

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(Cover photo: diskychick, Flickr)