Paper plates are compostable and take about 4 to 6 months, depending on the paper plate type, pile size, and the environment. The composting process is shorter on hot days, unlike in the cold seasons.
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Can You Compost Paper Plates?
Yes, you can compost paper plates in your home compost pile, provided they are not poly-coated or contain chemicals.
Paper plates made from recycled paper or recycled content can be composted in your food waste bin at home or work.
Polycoated paper plates are layered with plastic to improve durability and are thus unsuitable for composting; unless labeled otherwise. Similarly, paper plates containing chemicals are unsafe to compost. On the other hand, uncoated paper plates can be safely composted.
Paper plates can be used as mulch around plants that need extra nutrients from their roots (like tomatoes)—they are porous and absorb water well to help keep your garden moist and happy. However, don’t plan on using them for anything else—especially not indoors!
Is Paper Plate Biodegradable?
Paper plates made from recycled paper are biodegradable and decompose quickly in a compost pile. The main ingredient in any biodegradable material is cellulose, which is found in the stems of plants.
Cellulose is what makes up most plant matter and is what gives plants their structure. Paper plates are made from recycled paper containing cellulose— therefore, they are biodegradable!
Alternatively, reduce waste using eco-friendly reusable plates made from ceramic, recycled glass, stainless metal, or stone.
What Type of Paper Plates are Compostable?
Paper plates are made from various materials: some are made with sugarcane pulp, while others use recycled paper products.
They also can contain oils or fats, which make them more challenging to recycle because they don’t break down in a compost pile as quickly as other types of trash.
Here is a list of compostable plates:
1. Certified bio-plastic
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that compostable plastics are also biodegradable, but not every biodegradable plastic is compostable.
Therefore, check for labels to ensure your plastic plate is compostable.
2. Bamboo plates
In most cases, they are compostable, but it depends on other materials used in making them.
Break the plates into small pieces for easier composting, which may take up to 6 months to finalize the process.
3. Sugarcane pulp plates
Plates made from sugarcane fibers are compostable and sustainable for preserving the environment.
It’s a renewable resource plate that is easily compostable, provided no coatings or paint are used in manufacturing them.
4. Palm leaf plates
This single-use plate is made from renewable resources, and natural palm without additives is compostable.
It entirely breaks down in about three months in a composting system, provided it receives enough sun.
How to Tell if Paper Plates are Compostable
Although almost every paper plate is compostable, it’s easy to tell which are and those that aren’t. Most companies embrace eco-friendly products; they label compostable plates for easier identification.
You’ll want to look for a label on your paper plates that says “compostable” or “biodegradable.” These labels mean that the manufacturer has done their part to ensure your paper plate can be safely disposed of in a landfill or compost pile.
If there’s no label on the bottom, then it’s safe to assume that this isn’t an eco-friendly product—and potentially harmful to the environment.
How Long Does it Take for a Paper Plate to Compost?
It depends on the paper plate you’re using and the composing method. For instance, if you’re using a plastic plate, it’ll take longer than using cardboard or other paper plates.
Composting paper plates breaks them down into a natural soil amendment over time.
Depending on your environment, the average compost pile will take about four months to mature.
Factors that affect composting process include:
- Type of paper plate
- Compost pile temperature
- Season (more extended in winter and shorter time during summer)
- Manufacturing dates
How to Compost Paper Plates
Composting paper plates into the soil is a straightforward process you should know beforehand.
If you’re composting with your compost bin, you’ll need to ensure that the paper plates will break down over time into something soil and not just sit in your compost pile. Your plate should start breaking as soon as you put it into your home compost bin or yard waste bin.
You can sprinkle baking soda over each plate before adding it to the bin. This will help break down any chemicals from the paper plates into harmless ones that will be safe for plants and animals.
Here is the procedure to follow when composting:
1. Remove foods remnants
The process for turning your paper plate into the soil is simple. The first step is to remove all food from the plate.
Any remnants on the plate will not be included in the composting process.
Once done, place your plate in a cardboard box and seal it shut.
2. Break into small size
Cutting or shredding the paper plates into small pieces enhances mixing and hastens the decomposing process—larger pieces take longer.
3. Balance the ingredients
Paper plates are carbon-rich; thus, add a mix of nitrogen-rich components like green food craps to ensure a healthy compost pile.
A ratio of 1:1 is effective but adjust according to the ingredients you have at hand—an off-balance may result in a foul odor or dry compost.
4. Frequently rotate at intervals
Regularly turn your compost heap (weakly interval) for efficient air circulation and even decomposition throughout the pile.
It also aids in dispersing heat and distributing microorganisms to ensure a healthy compost product.
Avoid overturning the compost; otherwise, it may erode the nutrients.
5. Add an organic element
Adding an organic compound accelerates the breakdown making the entire process more efficient.
6. Cover to retain moisture and nutrients
Use a tarp, an old carpet, or a lid to cover the mixture of the compost heap to aid in heat and moisture retention for effective decomposing.
Covering also prevents nutrients evaporation or loss when in case of rains.