Policy change: no more compostable plastics

We were recently informed by Soilutions, the commercial compost facility that processes all the food waste we collect, that they are no longer accepting certified compostable plastics. Our understanding is that these items, particularly the bags and cups, have not been breaking down sufficiently, and their staff are wasting a lot of time picking them out of the finished piles.

Consequently, we must change our own policy and stop accepting these materials as well.

When does this go into effect?

The change has already gone into effect for Soilutions’ other customers, but they’ve kindly granted us a grace period to use up our remaining bag liners and to educate our members about the change.

Providing a specific date is challenging for us, since we have customers on a variety of different pickup frequencies and a bucket that goes out with a compostable liner might not find it’s way back to us for more than a month.

So instead of a specific date, we’re going to let the buckets do the talking: as long as your bucket arrives with a liner, you can continue adding certified compostable plastics. But once your bucket arrives without a liner, it’s time: no more bioplastics. You can also watch for a red sticker on your lid, though those may lag behind the change due to a printing delay.

What items are affected?

This change means we can’t accept ANY compostable plastics anymore. The most common items we see include:

  • Compostable plastic serviceware, including cutlery, cups and bowls.
  • Paper serviceware lined with compostable plastics, including coffee cups and soup/hotbar containers.
  • Compostable plastic bags, including liners, produce bags, and niche shipping bags.
  • Compostable K-cup rings (though you can tear off the ring and compost the contents).

What does this mean for residential pickup & dropoff members?

  • You will no longer receive a compostable liner with your bucket. We encourage you to line your bucket with used paper grocery bags, to keep it tidier for you and to facilitate cleaning for us. You can also just put your scraps directly into the bucket.
  • In the coming days we’ll invite our residential pickup members to complete a survey about this change and how it will impact our service in both the immediate future and in the long term.
  • Compostable plastics found in your bucket will be flagged as contamination, and repeat offenses may result in termination of service.
  • We ask for your patience as we refine our washing procedures in light of the much dirtier buckets we’ll be receiving. If we encounter difficulties with persistent odors or residues, we may need some time to experiment with different earth-friendly soaps.

What does this mean for commercial customers?

  • Your containers will no longer be lined with compostable bags.
  • The reduced “bag-only” fee for roll carts will no longer be an option.
  • Compostable plastics in your compost containers will be treated as contamination, including the escalating contamination fees listed in your service agreement.

Closing thoughts

Bioplastics have always been controversial. “Biodegradable” plastics are blatant greenwashing by the petroplastic industry, while “compostable” plastics are of questionable environmental benefit. In both cases, most of them end up either in the landfill or contaminating recycling streams… only a small percentage of compostable plastics actually find their way to a facility capable of composting them.

Of course, they are also incredibly convenient. It’s obviously much easier to replace a single-use plastic with a compostable equivalent than to switch away from single-use items entirely. We have treasured the bags we’ve used the past 5.5 years, as they’ve kept our buckets and other containers much cleaner than they’ll be without liners. And we’ve been grateful for how they’ve reduced our water consumption.

But… these bioplastics were always a guilty pleasure for us. In the end, we won’t be party to greenwashing or wishcycling, so if they aren’t breaking down like they’re supposed to, then we can’t let our members keep using them. We’re always reminding our customers that recycling, including composting, is fundamentally a local issue: what you can recycle or compost in your area depends entirely on your local infrastructure. So if our facility says that bioplastics aren’t working, then the bioplastics have to go.

This will be a chaotic transition for all of us, but we’ll get through it. Thank you in advance for your patience, and happy (messy) composting!


Since making this announcement, we’ve fielded a lot of questions from our residential members. Below are some answers to the most common questions.

Q: What should we line our bucket with now?

First, please know that it is 100% fine to just put your scraps straight in the bucket, without a liner. If you really want a liner, though, the most sustainable option is the paper grocery bags you may already have in your home. They don’t hold up quite as well as the compostable plastics did, but they definitely keep things tidier for both you and our crew.

A few members have asked us about “water resistant” paper bags they’ve found online. Unfortunately, we’ve found there’s some pretty dishonest marketing in this space, and many of these bags are actually lined with the very compostable plastics we’ve been asked to eliminate. If you find bags that are lined with cellulose, however, we can accept those.

Q: Can Little Green Bucket supply paper liners?

We’re looking into this possibility, but have concerns about cost, workflow, efficacy, and sustainability. It’s unlikely that we’ll deliver a bag with every bucket, like we used to do with the compostable plastic bags, but it’s possible that we’ll order wholesale volumes of a preferred bag so we can sell them to members at below retail.

Q: Can Little Green Bucket haul to another facility?

At the moment, no. The only other option is the water authority’s facility, and while they do an excellent job we are not eager to mix our precious food waste in with biosolids, as many of you wouldn’t want that compost in your garden.

For the diehards: you can collect your compostable plastics in your own container, and drop them off at Reunity Resources anytime you’re already passing through Santa Fe.

Q: Why would Little Green Bucket charge more for less service?

Our survey hinted that we may have to raise residential prices this year, and/or reduce member benefits, which prompted some tough questions as well as comparisons to services in other cities. Without getting too deep into the weeds, we’ll just say that this is a tough business, and Albuquerque is a tough town for a small business owner. During our first four years in business, we eked out just enough to pay our bills, and I almost never paid myself. In late 2022, we finally began to make a meaningful profit and I got a glimpse of the benefits of ownership, only for everything to come crashing down over the next 15 months. We nearly closed our doors two months ago, and we’re still teetering on a knife’s edge. This business has always been a labor of love, but it can only go on so long without turning a meaningful profit. If we raise prices, it will be because it’s the only way to stay in business.

4 thoughts on “Policy change: no more compostable plastics”

  1. Thank you for the super thorough and thoughtful explanation! So glad to have an organization like LGB in ABQ 🙂 Keep up the good work!!!

  2. Very thankful for the service you provide. Will understand if a price increase is necessary to cover your increased costs.

  3. I’m feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle, having left ABQ for three months in Oklahoma City on March 16, the day before this post was published. Just resumed service and received my clean bucket, and was surprised to find no bag included. Now I know why!

    I’m sad to learn that the BPI compostable plastics don’t compost well, but will gladly adapt to the new system. That mostly means finding a new use for the smaller BPI bags I just invested in, and learning how to pop the plastic ring off my San Francisco Bay coffee pods.

    By the way, in OKC I was working at a church that used a company called Fertile Ground for both recycling and composting. Was glad to continue keeping kitchen waste out of landfills, by putting it in Fertile Ground’s little white buckets with green lids!

    Thanks for your excellent service.
    Blessings, Sue Redfern-Campbell


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