North Carolina researchers say products that are advertised as biodegradable are likely doing more damage to the environment in landfills than regular products.
Microorganisms break down biodegradable items, a process that produces methane which is a greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere, according to Morton Barlaz, the head of North Carolina State Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. He co-authored a recently published paper detailing the unexpected findings.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that while most city solid waste landfills convert that methane for energy or burn the methane off-site, at least 35 percent of landfills allow the methane to escape, according to the paper.
Federal Trade Commission guidelines advise that products marked as "biodegradable" to decompose within "a reasonably short period of time" after disposal. Federal regulations don't require landfills to collect methane for at least two years from the time the materials have been dumped, according to researchers.