The BPI Certification Team stays extremely busy managing requests from companies of all kinds wishing to certify products as compostable. Many of these products you are familiar with because they have been a part of BPI’s certification program since its inception. Single-use food service packaging, compostable can liners, other bags designed to help transport organic waste to commercial composting facilities, and the resins manufacturers use to produce these products have all been part of BPI’s program for a long time.
The reason these products and materials have carried BPI’s compostable logo from the beginning is because they fit nicely with BPI’s eligibility criteria. In addition to meeting ASTM standards and other requirements such as being free of intentionally added fluorinated chemicals like PFAS, all products must meet the following additional criteria:
• The product must be accepted in the majority of commercial compost facilities that accept compostable packaging, or be part of a specific closed loop system in which a composter is willing to accept the product has been identified.
• The product cannot be a redesign of an item that is a better fit for recycling due to existing demand, infrastructure, and consumer awareness.
• The product cannot require disassembly in order to be composted.
• The item must be associated with the diversion of desirable feedstocks like food scraps and yard trimmings from landfills to composting.
European Bioplastics, our sister organization for compostability certification in Europe, has established some similar criteria and released this discussion paper detailing them.
Many of the questions we get about our eligibility requirements are associated with compostable bags, and are worth addressing specifically here. As we all know, plastic bags are used all over the world and there are efforts to curb the large quantity used each day. BPI certifies compostable bags that we think are likely to be a part of an organics diversion effort because they are sold specifically for that purpose (compostable lawn bags, can liners, and kitchen food waste bags) or are closely associated with food and can be reused to collect food scraps in some way (produce bags and shopping bags at grocery stores).
On the flip side, we no longer certify pet waste bags for the U.S. market despite the fact that they may meet the technical requirements of being compostable. This is because most curbside organics programs in the U.S. don’t accept pet waste, despite widespread assumptions to the contrary. These rules differ in Canada.
We also don’t certify bags used for non-food packaging like clothing or electronics despite the fact that (again) they may be technically compostable. The main reason is that non-food packaging is unlikely to be repurposed to help divert food scraps, and therefore doesn't make sense in a curbside organics bin.
Believe it or not, napkins, paper towels, and wipes also come with their share of difficulty. Our challenge here is to try and only certify products that are used to clean in a foodservice environment, but that is a difficult task, particularly with wipes. With all of these products, we ask that they be labeled, "For kitchen or foodservice use only".
This is not to say that BPI is not in favor of finding solutions to the many packaging problems that exist today. What we are saying is that compostability is not always the right attribute for a given product or package. Just because it is technically possible to create a compostable version of something, doesn’t mean that making that thing and putting it out into the world is going to help keep organics out of landfills, or have any impact on the plastic pollution crisis.
If you have any questions about our eligibility requirements or want to talk through a specific product development project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.