Deafening Compostable SunChips Bag Gets Pulled Deafening Compostable SunChips Bag Gets Pulled
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Deafening Compostable SunChips Bag Gets Pulled

by Andrew Price

October 7, 2010

Those biodegradable SunChips bags that were introduced last March are being pulled from the market by Frito-Lay. Apparently, they were just way too loud.

"Clearly, we'd received consumer feedback that it was noisy," says Aurora Gonzalez, a Frito-Lay spokeswoman. "We recognized from the beginning that the bag felt, looked and sounded different."

In this amusing Vimeo video, a citizen scientist uses a decibel meter to test exactly how loud the bag is (95 decibels) and concludes it's louder than a jet cockpit and might cause hearing damage. There's even a Facebook group called "Sorry, But I Can't Hear You Over This Sun Chips Bag" with 44,000 members.

So why were these bags so loud? Maggie Koerth-Baker provides scientific details:

Created from a polymer material based on corn starch, the bags were cursed with a high glass transition temperature. Basically, all polymers have a rubbery state and a stiff state, and each type of polymer switches from floppy to crunchy at a different temperature. For the Sun Chips bags, that was, unfortunately, around normal room temp—so what was supposed to be flexible was constantly turning brittle. And loud.

But here's the good news:

This flaw isn't inherent to compostable chip bags. Boulder Canyon potato chips makes their version from a wood pulp polymer, which seems to avoid the problem.

It's too bad this experiment didn't work, but Frito-Lay certainly deserves credit for trying.

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Deafening Compostable SunChips Bag Gets Pulled