Biodegradable products may be doing more harm than good, study finds
Products advertised as biodegradable may be doing harm than good to the environment, a new study finds.
May 31st, 2011
01:35 PM ET

Biodegradable products may be doing more harm than good, study finds

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.

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Filed under: Environment
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Ceaser

    EPA – Disinformation Central. Everything they say is a lie and designed to screw YOU over!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Barney Frank (D-Mass)

    Does my breath still smell like doodie?

    May 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cesar

    Down, troll. Thankfully digested chorizo doesn't produce methane.. it produces awesomeness.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gorilla #11 Not easily fooled

    Not surprising. This reminds me of the whole fluorescent vs incandescent light bulb fiasco. They use less power but are a major issue when it comes to disposal. We were better off with the old bulbs after all. Well, I wonder what the next knee-jerk issue will be, forced on us by environmental activists.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rankine Cycle

    "We were better off with the old bulbs after all"

    Consider that fluorescent lighting has been in use in industrial and commercial applications for decades and the screw-in versions which replace residential incandescent lamps cause less mercury (along with other materials) from coal combustion to be spread throughout the environment, even if the lamp is improperly disposed of.

    The only environmental benefit of making biodegradeable products is for when those who decide to throw their garbage out their car windows, in the woods, etc., the stuff decomposes rather than blowing into and collecting in the ocean.

    Environmental activists suggest eliminating the use of disposable products altogether, not littering, and the use of recycling and waste-to-energy for treatment of wastes that are created. Only companies trying to sell stuff and undereducated citizens who are conned by marketing campaigns tout anything else.

    Only radio entertainers make sure to tell you only one side of the story on these things.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    Geesh, first cell phones & cancer, now biodegradables & methane gas! We live in a dangerous world. Just about anything can kill ya! That's why my motto is HaveFunnn! Don't think about the negative, just Partay!!

    May 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ellis-From Panama

    I like them long and juicy. The longer the better. Mmmmm my lips get happy

    May 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ellis-From Panama

    SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Cesar have AIDS. He gay. Bob have bumps in his butt. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

    May 31, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob 2

    So? That's it Ellis, what an ass you are. I taught you had something new.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob 2

    Are you trying to be funnier using the S. I feel sorry for you.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ellis-From Panama

    bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb. Bob is GAY bbbbbbbbbBbbbbbbbB

    May 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob 2

    Please be nastier, a girl can do better.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fernace

    A girl will do better: SSSS it on my FFFF ace, EEE llissss!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Thomas Ray Sanchez

    Is it so hard to recycle? Landfills are examples of laziness. Be responsible Americans! Responsible humans.

    May 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. pmk1953

    All the safety meeting I went to at work stressed everything that can kill you is odorless and colorless. Therefore, if I can see and smell the air, it must be safe to breathe.

    May 31, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
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