Bags made from biodegradable materials for collecting organic household waste have been available on the market for several years. Now researchers in a large-scale pilot study have conducted an extensive investigation into whether these bags fully decompose. In addition, a first-of-its-kind study also took a look into the consumers interest in using biodegradable bags. The project was coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in collaboration with the University of Bayreuth, the University of Hohenheim and BEM Umweltservice GmbH participating as research partners. The results are in: For numerous reasons, the researchers are not currently recommending the use of biodegradable organic waste bags.
The research focus can be summed up in a question with great relevance for our daily lives: Are bags made from biodegradable materials a good alternative for household organic biowaste collections? However, organic waste holds huge potential as a source of valuable energy and important plant nutrients. It is a source of biogas, which can be used to generate electricity, and its end products, such as compost, can be used as an organic fertilizer, which reduces the use of artificial fertilizers. This means recycling organic waste can make an important contribution to the energy transition and sustainability, while also reducing dependencies on international supply chains.
In addition, using paper bags and bags made from biodegradable materials did not positively influence how much organic waste households put out for collection during the pilot project. The amount of organic waste collected did not increase when the bags were distributed to households, and the batch analysis showed the amount of foreign matter in the waste was no lower than it was before the pilot study. This is another reason why the BabbA project group does not recommend using collection bags made from biodegradable materials; however, they believe paper bags are a promising alternative and should be researched in more detail.
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