I recently bought a toothbrush made from bioplastic. Will it really break down in my backyard composter?
Erin, Vancouver, B.C.
It’s possible, but I can’t speak from experience. Check the packaging to see if your toothbrush meets standards ensuring that it’s certified as biodegradable and compostable.
You should notice a black and white logo with a leaf and an arrow that says “compostable.” This means it meets the Biodegradable Products Institute, or BPI, standards for compostability (ASTM 6400 D99 and ASTM 6868).
Some may also mention “European Bioplastics standards (EN 13432).”
In 1999, BPI created a certification program that requires the product to decompose within 60 to 180 days. But that’s in a commercial compost facility. So if your city has such a thing, and Vancouver does, you’re in luck.
As for backyard composting, bio-resins will take longer to breakdown. Compost bin conditions vary so much, but it will need to be hot. If you experiment with the backyard composting option, let me know how it goes.
Most bioplastics are starch-based — made from wheat, corn or potatoes. Now, there are some concerns about corn because half of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.
Check the toothbrush manufacturer’s website, since many are trying to use GMO-free crops.
Thanks for reducing plastic pollution and keeping plastics out of our landfills.
Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.