Solid Waste & Recycling


Packaging: Compostable Chip Bags

As we reported in our last edition, SunChips®, Frito Lay Canada's popular line of multigrain snacks, has introduced the world's first 100 per cent compostable chip bag. The news release extols that "This green innovation, a first-of-its...

As we reported in our last edition, SunChips®, Frito Lay Canada’s popular line of multigrain snacks, has introduced the world’s first 100 per cent compostable chip bag. The news release extols that “This green innovation, a first-of-its kind initiative, will change the way Canadians hear, see and think about product packaging in the future.”

Starting in March 2010, SunChips packaging will be made from more than 90 per cent renewable, plant-based materials. This new package will completely break down into compost in a hot, active compost pile in approximately 14 weeks. On store shelves, it has a unique sound, the new sound of green. The company has provided some hip promotional materials, including a “Greenvention” contest and sound bites that you can listen to at

The compostable chip bag was launched in March in the 225g & 425g size bags, with the balance of SunChips packages transitioning into the compostable packaging in August 2010.

Marc Guay, President, Frito Lay Canada says the packaging made from renewable material “represents the next small step in Frito Lay Canada’s environmental sustainability journey.”

Frito Lay Canada has worked for more than a decade to reduce the company’s environmental impact. In addition to the compostable chip bag, it has diverted more than 92 per cent of manufacturing waste from landfills into re-use streams in 2009 and reused approximately 30 million shipping cartons annually and 200 million since 1999 — equivalent to more than 300,000 trees saved annually and more than 2 million trees saved since 1999.

The renewable material used to produce the SunChips bag is made from a plant-based PLA material. PLA, polylactic acid, is a versatile and compostable polymer made from starch. After four years of research and testing, Frito-Lay North America’s Research and Development team identified PLA as the key material that meets the company’s performance expectations. The compostable packaging has a different sound than traditional bags because the plant-based materials are not as soft at room temperature.

The development has been met with concern, however, from some professionals in the recycling industry, as such material may cross-contaminate recycling lines when it doesn’t end up in compost green bins.

Vivian De Giovanni, Executive Director of the Municipal Waste Association says, “Municipalities are concerned with: residents being confused and putting some of the PLA in the recycling stream and some petroleum based products in the Green Bin.

“The broader issue is not about trying to establish barriers for businesses trying to do the right environmental things, but about fostering communication between those that design the product packaging and those that handle the packaging at end of life.”

The SunChips’ compostable packaging has been certified through the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), the only internationally recognized labeling program. As such it presents the opportunity for incorporation into waste management programs destined for composting, provided the local infrastructure is both available and capable of including this packaging material within their system. In the months ahead, SunChips says it will work with local composting initiatives to enable the new packaging to be included in green bin programs as much as possible.

Where recyclers are concerned, composting leaders are excited.

“Having designed packaging with the environment in mind, SunChips’ certified compostable packaging will help raise awareness of the environmental importance of composting,” says Susan Antler, Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada. “We hope the introduction of initiatives such as the compostable SunChips bag will encourage and make it easier for Canadians to participate in composting such that over time, we will see an increase in the number of Canadian households that compost. This will hopefully also spur the industry to continue to develop and enhance the technology needed to create packaging from renewable resources such that it can be easily incorporated into waste management systems.”

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Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine. Contact Guy at

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