SunChips Compostable Bag: Year in Review

Last year Frito-Lay started putting their SunChips in a compostable bag.  The bag was very loud.  It was so loud that it quickly replaced the vuvuzela as the most annoying sports noise maker when the Yankees passed out SunChips to the first 10000 fans, late last August. Fans sang along to Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, crinkling their bags as they clapped.  “CRINKLE CRINKLE CRINKLE CRINKLE HEY!”

The trend caught on and all sports arenas started passing them out, puffing their chests at their environmental action.  Sadly, SunChips were quickly banned when fans started throwing their loud bags out on the the field because they thought composting meant they would disappear once they touched the soil.  The bags also caused thousands of injuries, mass hearing loss.

Hockey arenas also tried passing out the SunChips bags, but fans once again failed to understand the process of composting and began discarding their bags on the ice rink en masse in lieu of a proper hat-trick.  At the end of each period, the Zamboni simply drove over the skate-shredded SunChips bags and permanently encased them in the ice at the brand new SunChips Arena!

So I bought a couple of bags just like everyone else.  If you’re like most people you quickly got tired of everyone in your life yelling at you to SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP BEFORE I HIT YOU PUT THE BAG AWAY AND DON’T EAT THEM AGAIN every time you went for a snack. So you dumped the contents of the bag into multiple Ziploc sandwich bags or a couple of gallon sized Ziplocs.  Then you threw the compostable bag into the trash.

But it’s compostable right? So even if it ends up in the landfill it just disappears in a billion little pieces where it is reclaimed and consumed by the Earth as an incredibly loud but “healthy” snack.  Or is the bag only suitable for an actual compost bin?  In that case, does it actually add any nutritional value to your compost soil?  Or is it just a clever way to hide your trash? Doesn’t it still leave something behind whether you left it in a landfill or your backyard?  (Composting also creates CO2 and Heat)  What is the maximum SunChips bag to vegetation ratio?


So last Spring I dug a shallow hole and discarded my first compostable SunChips bag into my garden.  (I love hiding trash in my yard!)  I know it’s not a compost heap and doesn’t have the proper moisture/air/heat balance to completely compost, but I figured it would at least start to degrade and probably be gone after a year.  I planted vegetables like normal, watered, fertilized, harvested, left some plants to rot, and left the garden over the winter.

And forgot about it.

Today I was digging around my garden and cleaning out the old rotten plant matter.  I struck something with the shovel that caused a deafening sound.  I thought I had struck thunder itself.  Fearing I hit the electric line or God’s sleeping place, I threw the shovel and screamed as I ran behind a tree.  Rocking back and forth with my hands over my ears, wimpering “make it stop”, I waited until my hearing returned.


When I regained my equilibrium, I returned to the garden.  I had to set up an archeological string grid and lightly brush material off the of the garden with a fine broom until I uncovered the source of the thunder sound.  Below the soil the SunChips bag was still there, complete with all of the letters, colors, nutrition information, and as LOUD AS EVER.  But, it didn’t even try to compost!

Maybe after a few years it will begin to degrade.  The bag said it would take 13 weeks under proper compost.  But do you really think it’s going to do that at the landfill?  Even if it does “degrade” it’s still going to be there under 25 feet of clay.  So unless you run a proper compost heap or worm bin, stop patting yourself on the back as “Captain Green” for buying something that says something you don’t understand.  The SunChips bag is pretty much just another piece of garbage, unless you can come up some other practical use:

  • Strategically placed on the stairs to a sniper’s nest as an alarm
  • Tied to a lazy dog’s tail so it gets some exercise
  • Stitched together as a Mylar Solar Sail to divert an asteroid away from Earth’s Orbit
  • A flower pot that will last for years

This bag has been through a lot


One thought on “SunChips Compostable Bag: Year in Review

  1. Can I have your permission to use the top photo here for a TEDx presentation I’ll be giving in May? Nice photography. Let me know if you want a photo credit.

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