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Published on October 19th, 2010 | by Rachel Shulman

7

SunChips Trashes Compostable Bag Because It’s Too Noisy

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A year and a half after introducing the world’s first compostable chip bag, Frito-Lay is ditching SunChips’ green packaging. The reason? Consumers complained it was “too noisy.”

The bags were made from plant-based materials that were 100 percent biodegradable, meaning that they would produce less landfill waste.

To make the bags compostable, Frito-Lay had to adopt packaging with a more rigid molecular structure. Unfortunately, this rigid packaging also made the bag too noisy for American consumers. People complained that eating chips from the bag drowned out the sound of their TVs, and compared the noise to lawnmowers or jet engines.

According to Frito-Lay, the bags caused SunChips sales to drop by more than 11 percent. As a result, the company has decided to return SunChips to its former non-biodegradable packaging.

For many environmentalists, the idea that Americans favor a silent chip bag over an eco-friendly one does not bode well for our ability to counter environmental degradation.

Kate Sheppard writes in Mother Jones:

In the grand scheme of things, this is the absolute, bare-minimum level of sacrifice Americans are asked to make. They still get to eat the same chips, they just come from a different bag. . . But apparently that’s still too much. Even worse is the fact that Americans can’t muster the support to pass a climate bill, but a bunch of angry couch potatoes can successfully mobilize to force Frito-Lay to drop their innovative packaging. If the sound of a crinkly eco-chip bag is too much to handle, then the human species really is screwed.

What do you think the SunChips experiment says about our willingness to go green?

Image courtesy of inju via a Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

I'm an ecologist turned journalist turned farmer-in-training. I'm currently working on an organic farm and creamery in Illinois. Follow me on twitter (http://twitter.com/rachelshulman), friend me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=3105709), or follow me on StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/RachelShulman/).



  • http://Web Vines_N_Cattle

    This is a good thing! This will push innovation for a quiet compostable bag. I liked the bag, but yeah, it was loud. I’ll bet it won’t be too long, and someone will come up with a low impact bag that is low impact with the decibels as well.

    It won’t do any good to have a compostable bag on the market that serves as a bad, noisy public relations campaign for a good sentiment.

    • http://glueandglitter.com Becky Striepe

      It seems weird to me that they’d pull it when Boulder Canyon has a quieter compostable bag that’s already in use. Maybe that bag is proprietary? Over at Inspired Economist, one of the writers was working on testing both bags’ biodegradability:

      http://inspiredeconomist.com/2010/10/07/testing-package-compostability-claims-week-2/

      • Rachel Shulman

        Not sure about Boulder Canyon, but I know that Frito-Lay is currently working on a new, quieter bag.

  • http://www.anotherkindofdrew.com anotherkindofdrew

    Hey there. I am Andrew Odom, the blogger referenced in Kate’s follow-up article on SunChips (http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/10/more-bagged-bags).

    I think after all that I have written and the experiments I have done (http://anotherkindofdrew.com/blog/?p=3010) I have come to the conclusion that the most disconcerting thing about this whole SunChips bag is that:

    A) Their marketing was a complete fallacy. It wreaked of greenwashing from the very first “it’ll grow a flower” video.
    B) More Americans were concerned about the volume of the bag than its inability to compost in most situations.

    Our society has become so eat up by aesthetics that we can no longer see the forest for the trees. I guess we should be thankful green is a visually pleasing color or else the entire eco-friendly movement would have been shunned across the nation. it is a said situation and not one that I think will change anytime soon. It is ironic, I think, that we want everything around us to be quiet (dishwasher, washing machine, car, etc) so we can turn up the volume on the noise (TV, iPod, satellite radio, graphics, etc).

    I rather disagree with Vines_N_Cattle – I do think it will be a while. Scientifically we have to make adjustments to molecular and even bio-molecular structures in order to create higher fusion for composting.

    I just wish SunChips would have taken a smaller step perhaps with a recyclable bag or post-consumer bag rather than a full-on “compostable” one.

    • http://Web Vines_N_Cattle

      Ya know, creating a rude, noisy, ruckus by eating chips just plays into the argument that environmentalists are self righteous jerks looking to get attention and force their choices on others.

      Sorta like how LED lights have made annoying, mercury filled compact florescent bulbs obsolete, better biodegradable packaging is on the way. It’s the way of things.

  • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zach

    Wow, this is just completely ridiculous in my opinion…

  • http://juliekinnear.com Julie K.

    No matter what size, colour or shape is the wrapping unless it is compostable, don´t you think? On the other side, if those materials are not really able to decompose it we should have to revise what is good on them. It seems like somebody is just making some kind of popularity to certain goods…

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