Ecovibe’s biodegradable compostable bin liners were a recent purchase I made after a fair amount of research. I know a lot of people who don't compost because of the smell/hygiene issues of having rotting food waste in their kitchen and thought that this could be a good solution to encouraging people to compost as an alternative to putting food waste in landfill. Although my research flagged some issues with the quality of information on Ecovibe's website, I settled on their compostable bags as the best product I could find, and fairly cheap too, at only £4.99 for 52 bin liners. Whilst I think more work could be done to ensure complete transparency for the customer, my instinct is that Ecovibe is a company that is genuinely trying to turn the tide of climate action, and their compostable bin liners are one of the innovative ways that they are attempting to do this.
The liners themselves work by composting within 6 months, which is about the same rate as food waste. This means they can be disposed of in the compost to simply degrade alongside the food.
The Ecovibe compostable bin liners boast being made from 100% plant material, meaning they are also 'plastic free.' Whilst being plastic free means the bag itself is compostable, the bags are effectively made of what is known as a 'bioplastic,' meaning it retains the beneficial characteristics of traditional plastic (such as strength and malleability) without being made of harmful fossil fuels. Instead, Ecovibe bags are made of 100% plant material. Unfortunately, they do not specify which plant material the bin liners are actually made of. Generally, compostable bags are either made from potato starch or corn starch. Whilst both of these are renewable materials and are a vast improvement from fossil fuel derived plastics, this lack of transparency means it is harder to assess just how sustainable these bags are, as these two materials do differ slightly. For instance, corn starch requires around 40% more land use than potatoes to produce the same amount of starch. Corn starch also requires irrigation, whereas potato starch only needs natural rainfall. Though using plant material is great for sustainability, the lack of information has meant that I've had to slightly lower their score.
In terms of production, the same issue is raised in terms of which material the bag is actually made of. Again, potato starch bags win out in a sustainability competition as compared to corn starch. Potato starch is extracted by simply being washed out of crushed potatoes. The bags themselves are then made by water and starch being mixed together and then exposed to heat. Once hot, the starch mixture is moulded to form the bags. Before this process can take place for corn starch, the corn kernels must be immersed in sulphur dioxide and hot water, where its components are broken down into starch, protein and fibre - this extraction is much more energy intensive than the equivalent with potatoes. The starch is then separated and converted into bags in much the same way as plastic or the potato starch. Both these processes remain much less energy intensive than plastic, but without knowing the exact material used, it is hard to assess quite how much of an improvement this solution offers. One key strength of this product is that is made in a zero waste factory where all the energy to keep the factory working is wind generated. If this is true, this is a massive win for this company as it ensures the product is sustainable before and after use (i.e. in production and disposal). However, once again, the company fails to explain how they ensure the factory is waste free. To score them higher, I'd really like to see some evidence on how this is achieved, as a totally waste free factory seems somewhat unlikely.
Ecovibe unfortunately offers no information on who their products are made by, which raises big concerns for me. This means it is impossible to tell if the company is utilising sustainable and ethical labour practices. Whilst this is inherently problematic, I do see other elements of the company that suggest they generally have sustainable working practices and ethics. For instance, they guarantee that all their products are cruelty free and vegan. This means animals have not been used in the testing processes and the bags are not made using any animal-derived ingredients. Furthermore, the company pledges that for every £1 spent on the website, that (through their corresponding donations to the Rainforest Trust UK) 6m2 of rainforest is protected. Whilst this does not guarantee their production ethics match their general ethical polices, it suggests to me that this company is focused on ethical aims, which hopefully displays itself in ethical working practices. Additionally, the all-female management team (which in itself is an impressive achievement in terms of female empowerment) has only recently set up the company in 2018, and they seem keen on improving their sustainability on all fronts possible; though it is really not okay to detail nothing about working conditions, this company seems to still be finding their footing and at least moving in the right direction in terms of sustainability.