Frito Lay abandons eco-friendly SunChip bags

Last year, Frito Lay unveiled a 100% compostable bag for SunChips. Since packaging waste from single-serving junk food is a sizable chunk of our society’s trash, this move was a big deal and was cheered by environmentalists. They even had a sappy commercial showing how this could make the world more environmentally friendly. Remember the commercial?

Many (including myself) hoped that this would encourage other manufacturers of single-serving snacks to use eco-friendly packaging. Sadly, it was not to be. In fact, SunChips won’t even use compostable packaging anymore. ABC News Reports:

“About 18 months after the company unveiled its new 100 percent compostable packaging for SunChips, the company has said it will transition back to the original packing for five of its six flavors.”

And why is Frito Lay un-doing one of the most significant waste reduction moves of the last decade?

“The reason for the switch? Consumers say the packaging is too loud.”

You read that correctly. The fact that these bags reduce the enormous and unsustainable amount of waste that our society produces is apparently less important than the fact that they are a little noisier when you crinkle them.

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  1. Alan Dove · October 7, 2010

    It says more about Frito-Lay’s customers than it does about the company. People who give a damn about the environment probably aren’t buying single-serving junk food in the first place. For them, convenience and a quick fat-and-sugar fix trump all other considerations, and a noisy bag just isn’t convenient.

    I don’t think it’s fair to blame the company for this. Companies have to maximize profit and act in their own self-interest. If we want to do something about the “externalities,” such as pollution from their products, then society has to put a price on those problems. Add a plastic packaging tax, and you’d boost the price of these single-serving junk foods, at which point people would probably appreciate a biodegradable, cheaper package – even if it was louder. As long as the market price doesn’t reflect the real societal cost of the product, though, this is the kind of outcome you’ll get. Google “tragedy of the commons” for a whole lot more on this.

    • WhySharksMatter · October 7, 2010

      I wasn’t necessarily blaming Frito-Lay as much as reflecting on how the whole situation upset me.

  2. Sam · October 7, 2010

    You know you live in America when so much of the news is worthy of that same exact de-motivational. Seriously, I’ve been seeing it everywhere and it’s been so richly deserved.

    But seriously. How whiney can people get? And was the packaging actually 100% biodegradable?

    • WhySharksMatter · October 7, 2010

      The packaging claimed to be 100% compostable and I never saw anything critiquing that.

  3. Sam · October 7, 2010

    Those bags were startlingly loud. I felt self-conscious eating Sun Chips in the next room when my friends were watching TV. And can we really expect the American public to put their chips in a bowl before eating them?


  4. Mike McCallister · October 7, 2010

    I’m indifferent to those bags. They were unusually load…but whatever. I also don’t compost so I can’t say I ever composted one of their bags. However, and this is second hand info, but a friend of mine who does compost said she put one of those bags in her compost bin and it is STILL there, and it’s been more than 3 months (which she says the bag claims is the amount of time it takes to compost). How relevant that is…you’re guess is as good as mine.

  5. Southern Fried Scientist · October 7, 2010

    Even things designed to be composted, like frito bags, corn starch utensils, and those funky food cartons need to be shredded first.

  6. Barney · October 17, 2010

    Just for some clarification, they do still use the compostable bags for the large bags of the regular flavored chips. So, the project isn’t completely abandoned.

    • WhySharksMatter · October 18, 2010

      Noted. They’ve only stopped using the eco-friendly bags in the overwhelming majority of their products, not all of them.

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