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Composting Infrastructure

While there is good data on waste generation in the United States and the amount of material that gets recycled, composted, and landfilled, there is less data available on composting infrastructure.  Existing metrics for composting access include the number of facilities that process material and the number of collection programs (both commercial and residential) that collect material, along with the types of material that they collect.

Processing Infrastructure
The data that exists is largely thanks to research by BioCycle magazine and their reports on various aspects of the composting industry over the last decade and beyond.  BioCycle’s 2018 report on the “State of Organics Recycling in the U.S.” provides some of the best data available, including the figure that, at that time, there were 4,713 total composting facilities in the United States.  Of that total, 57% accepted only yard waste, while only 5% accepted food scraps.

According to a more recent BioCycle survey, completed in 2019, there are 185 full-scale food waste composting facilities located in 37 states across the U.S.  These full-scale commercial/municipal facilities, as defined by BioCycle, are “equipped to receive and process organic waste streams arriving by truckload volumes from generators and haulers on a year round basis.”

What Composters Accept
In addition to green waste (e.g., yard trimmings, landscaping debris), three-quarters of facilities accept all food waste streams, including both pre- and post-consumer food, while just under two-thirds allow compostable paper products and just over half accept compostable bioplastics products.

The charts above show that  “Compostable paper products” and “Compostable plastic products” are permitted and accepted at full-scale food scraps facilities over 50% of the time, which is a positive metric when trying to assess the future viability of programs that accept and process both food scraps and packaging.

Additional Resources 
Bradford, Abigail, Jonathan Sundby, Alexander Trulove, and Adair Andre.  “Composting in America: A Path to Eliminate Waste, Revitalize Soil and Tackle Global Warming.”  Frontier Group.

Goldstein, Nora.  “Food Waste Composting Infrastructure in the U.S.”  BioCycle January 2019.

Kachook, Olga.  “Mapping Composting Infrastructure and Supporting Legislation.  GreenBlue.

BPI is a science-driven organization that supports a shift to the circular economy by promoting the production, use, and appropriate end of lives for materials and products that are designed to fully biodegrade in specific biologically active environments.

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