The Reality of Compostable Packaging in 2024

The Reality of Compostable Packaging in 2024

Composting has emerged as a promising solution for diverting organic waste from landfills and mitigating environmental impact. However, as we strive to integrate compostable packaging into the mainstream, it's imperative to address common misconceptions, enhance consumer education, and establish robust standards to ensure the success of composting initiatives.  

Unveiling Common Beliefs: Insights from the Composting Consortium

The Composting Consortium   's recent study sheds light on prevalent beliefs surrounding composting and challenges existing notions. According to the report, curbside collection of organic materials (aka organics) in the US has grown 49% since 2021, but most facilities still process only yard waste. Currently, about 145 full-scale US commercial composting facilities accept food waste and some types of compostable packaging.

Map of Composting Facilities in the USA

Conventional plastic remains a significant contaminant in composting operations, comprising 85% of feedstock contamination on average. Contrary to belief, the presence of compostable packaging in organic streams does not necessarily lead to higher contamination rates. However, other factors contribute to contamination levels. Financially, contamination significantly impacts profitability, with composters allocating 21% of operating costs, on average, for contamination removal. Moreover, conventional plastic adversely affects the quality of compost, posing risks to both composters' businesses and the environment. While concerns exist regarding compostable packaging breakdown, the study reveals that most composters successfully manage compostable products, with minimal traces in the finished compost.


Empowering the Future: The Role of Compostable Packaging

Compostable packaging holds immense potential as a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics. However, realizing this potential requires collaborative efforts:

  1. Enhanced Consumer Education: Educating consumers about the distinction between compostable and non-compostable materials is paramount. Companies must transparently label their packaging to prevent greenwashing and empower consumers to make informed choices. Many consumers see a paper cup but not the plastic inner lining. 
  2. Greater Legislative Oversight: Legislation mandating clear labeling and certification standards for compostable packaging can mitigate confusion and ensure accountability across the supply chain.
  3. Streamlining Certification Processes: Simplifying certification processes for compostable packaging can encourage wider adoption among businesses. Certifications such as BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) and TUV Austria provide credible standards for compostability.
  4. Addressing Contamination Concerns: Given the cost implications of contamination removal, it's crucial for consumers to responsibly dispose of compostable packaging. Vigilance in separating compostable materials from conventional plastics can safeguard the integrity of composting operations and prevent facility closures.

Navigating Complexity: Compost Certification

Compost certification serves as a hallmark of quality and sustainability. Key certifications include:

  • BPI Certification: Recognized by composting facilities, the Biodegradable Products Institute certifies products as compostable according to stringent standards.
  • TUV Austria Certification: This certification ensures compliance with European standards for compostability, offering credibility in global markets.
  • ABA Certification: ABA certification, also known as the Australian Bioplastics Association certification, provides assurance of compostability and biodegradability according to established criteria, contributing to the global effort towards sustainable packaging solutions.

Conclusion: Cultivating a Greener Future

As we navigate the complexities of composting and embrace compostable packaging, education, accountability, and collaboration are key. By dispelling myths, fostering consumer awareness, and advocating for legislative support, we can pave the way for a more sustainable future—one compostable package at a time. Together, let's cultivate a greener tomorrow for generations to come.

Back to News