The Rot Rate Experiments – January 2011

Tom says…

I have a skeptical streak, especially when it comes to green claims made for products. Since there’s not yet any way to deliver tee shirts that does not involve shipping them (I’m just waiting for those in-home 3D printers that will be available in oh, say, 2020), we have tried to find a shipping envelope that is both robust and environmentally friendly. So we (Karin, actually) found these compostable bags that we are using as our initial shipping solution. (When you’re a real business person, it’s important to overuse the word solution.)

I really want to believe these envelopes will compost to useful organic matter. I think this is a perfect opportunity for a little tee-shirt based science fun that will let me know, rather than believe.

So I’ve cut one of these bags, which feel like plastic to the touch, into six strips. I’ve put two strips each into three glass containers we had lying about. Karin claims they are meant for glowing candles, but to me they looked perfect for either an ant farm or this experiment. Anyway, I’ll be documenting here the progress of this little effort at determining the rot rate of our environmentally-friendly packaging.

Here is one of the shipping bags cut into strips.

I’ve labeled each strip January 7, 2011, the day it was put in the dirt. The soil was recommended by the local nursery as having the highest organic matter content, all the better for the degradation process.

The strips in their containers, and the soil we’ll be using.

My plan is to remove one of the six strips every three months. Then I’ll post a picture of what it looks like after it’s washed off. Unfortunately, I didn’t weigh each strip before putting them in the dirt, but that just creates an opportunity for me to do another, better experiment later.

According to the product specs, full degradation occurs in 9 to 60 months. It’ll be fun to see how far these little strips get in 18 months.

This is a situation where bugs are good, real good. Go bugs!

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