In the end, everything we produce is biodegradable, in a cosmic sense. That doesn’t mean everything you use and toss can sport that label so you feel better about buying it. This week the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on Kmart, Tender and Dyna-E for dubious claims of biodegradability. Guidance from the FTC since 1992 has set a standard that allows the biodegradable label “only if they have scientific evidence that their product will completely decompose within a reasonably short period of time under customary methods of disposal.”
The performance of my compost pile raises questions about the biodegradability of all kinds of wholesome vegetable and fruit trimmings (not to mention the toxic-smelling fumes wafting into the alley). I fully expect that all the plastic cups and styrofoam peanuts and assorted artificial junk that comes in every birthday party goody-bag that appear in my house will eventually join the Texas-sized island of pollution dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Long after we’re dead, these things will still be around, dug up by archeologists from some future, and hopefully, greener civilization that figured out how to live without disposable plates, moist wipes and compact towels.