Frito-Lay announces compostable chip bags—with a catch

The brand released industrially compostable bags for its Off The Eaten Path brand. But how compostable are they, really?

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side-by-side image of compostable chip bags
Photo: Frito-Lay

Frito-Lay doesn’t have a great history with compostable chip bags. Back in 2008, the brand introduced compostable SunChips bags, which were great in theory but had one distinct design flaw: the bag, which was made with a biodegradable corn-based biopolymer called polylactic acid, was loud as hell. When crinkled, the bags released a “potentially damaging” sound that rang in at 95 decibels, or allegedly louder than an Air Force jet’s cockpit, as we reported earlier this year. But now, Frito-Lay is at it again with an industrially compostable bag for its Off The Eaten Path brand. Gentlemen, insert your ear plugs.

According to a press release sent to The Takeout, the compostable bags are currently available at Whole Foods Market and a few other retailers. The packaging, which the release says is “primarily made from non-food, plant-based sources,” is available on specially marked Off The Eaten Path Chickpea Veggie Crisps, as well as Off The Eaten Path Veggie Crisps. Producing the materials used for these bags reportedly creates approximately 60% lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional packaging.

David Allen, vice president of sustainability, Frito-Lay North America, explained that the company is “investing in plans to scale circular food packaging that is recyclable, compostable, biodegradable or reusable and sharing that technology to build a more sustainable food system for us all.” For what it’s worth, Frito-Lay is also offering to license the bag technology at no cost to encourage industry-wide use.

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Unfortunately, actually getting these things composted is kind of a pain in the rear. The bags are “industrially compostable,” which means you can’t just stick them in your backyard compost pile. The material has to be processed in an industrial composting facility at very high heat before it begins to compost. Thus, customers have two options: either drop off their used bags at a designated drop-off facility, or mail in their used packaging with a prepaid shipping label available on the Off The Eaten Path website. Until more readily biodegradable packaging hits the market, I don’t think this is necessarily a cause for celebration. But hopefully, it’s a start.