Above, one of three mounds at the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, NY, as seen from the west side of Seneca Lake approximately eight miles away (through a telephoto lens). Credit: Kevin Colton, HWS.

EPA Region Map

EPA Region Map
EPA Region Map

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Compostable Consumerism Ends with a CRUNCH

Almost a year ago, Frito-Lay made an ingenious move; the compostable Sun Chips bag. In a time when environmentalism is growing both as a trend and as a realistic concern for future generations, the concept of a guilt-free bag served to take the weight off of the shoulders of consumers; shopping moms wanting to please their families' taste buds as well as their environmental conscience, and environmental studies students in need of a cure for the munchies could soon breathe a sigh of relief... or so Frito-Lay engineers assumed.
As excited as many consumers of Sun Chips were to hear of the sun chips bag that would compost completely in 14 weeks, many were unreceptive to the accompanying "crunch." It turns out that the materials (and chemical bonds) used to make the bags made them much more rigid and loud than any other chip-bag on the market. According to a USA Today Article published in October of 2010, the racket these bags were making was being "compared to everything from lawnmowers to jet engines."
According to profits, the cost to consumers' ears strongly outweighed the benefits to mother nature. The compostable bags were pulled from the shelves (in every flavor except Original) no more than 18 months from their debut, due to the overwhelmingly negative feedback from customers. Ok, ok. Noisy bags make it a lot harder to sneak junk-food snacks behind mom's back. But, the overwhelming reactions to Frito-Lay's efforts uncovers a revealing truth about the value systems held by the population of individuals consuming these products. Come on, you may be mildly annoyed, but don't pretend for one second that this crinkling will make you any more deaf than the decibel level produced daily by your favorite earbuds. What matters more, the volume of your kitchen conversation, or the health of your (future) children?
To Frito-Lay's credit, however, they have not given up just yet. According to the Official Sun Chips Website, an equally compostable and exponentially quieter version of the composting bags will be hitting the shelves of grocery stores in the months to come. Hopefully Sun Chips aficionados will be pleased this time around.

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