Foundational Guidance Aims to Reduce Contamination for Composters
SEPTEMBER 22, 2020 – The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), North America’s leading certifier of compostable products and packaging, today announced the release of a first-of-its-kind set of labeling and identification guidelines designed to support the collection of food scraps and reduce contamination for composters. The document, Guidelines for the Labeling and Identification of Compostable Products and Packaging , features category and material-specific recommendations designed to make it easier for end-users, consumers, and composters to distinguish between compostable and non-compostable items.
Compostable products and packaging exist to help facilitate the diversion of food scraps from landfills. Unfortunately, the threat of contamination from look-alike non-compostable packaging has led some composters to discontinue accepting compostable products and packaging. Consistent on-product labeling will make it easier for consumers and all end-users to identify which products can be placed in food scraps containers, creating a cleaner organics stream for composters.
“Contamination from conventional, non-compostable packaging is one of the biggest challenges to successfully composting food scraps,” said Rhodes Yepsen, Executive Director of BPI. “The first step to managing this contamination is through consistent labeling. These new guidelines set the standard for designing products that end-users, consumers, and composters can readily and easily identify as compostable.”
In April of 2019, Washington became the first state to pass legislation with specific requirements for the labeling of food packaging marketed as “compostable”. That legislation went into effect this past July, and has helped bring urgency to the conversation around labeling and identification.
The US Composting Council (USCC) has long been focused on tackling contamination, and the role that well-labeled compostable products can play in mitigating this problem for composters.
“Distinguishing between compostable and non-compostable items is extremely difficult for many composters,” said Frank Franciosi, Executive Director of the USCC. “These new guidelines will help compost manufacturers by reducing the amount of contamination entering their facilities, and should boost confidence in accepting food scraps mixed with certified compostable packaging.”
Contamination is not the only hurdle composters face when choosing to accept compostable products and packaging, but it is continually the biggest concern cited. BPI is actively engaged with the composting industry on other key challenges, such as the rate that products break down in real world conditions, and hurdles to using finished compost in Organic agriculture.
Despite these challenges, Special Environmental Technologies (SET) has been processing residential and commercial organics, including BPI Certified compostable products, in Minneapolis/St. Paul for 20 years.
“Composting of straight clean food waste is a much easier process than accepting food with compostable products due to the inert contamination that inevitably comes with those products,” said Chuck Joswiak at SET. “Because of the confusion by consumers, having a better system of identification for compostable products is key. These products do break down in our system, and will ultimately help divert a larger part of the waste stream from landfills.”
“As businesses and governments increasingly look to transition to a more circular economy, one where materials are not wasted but treated as resources, it is critical that we have clear and consistent messaging about what is compostable,” said Yepsen. “This requires consumer goods to be well labeled, so that they end up in the right collection bin.”
BPI expects this document to be dynamic, and encourages composters and other stakeholders to provide feedback by clicking the link at the bottom of this page on the BPI website.
About the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)
The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is North America’s leading certifier of compostable products and packaging. The organization is science-driven, and supports a shift to the circular economy by promoting the production, use, and appropriate end of lives for materials and products designed to fully biodegrade in specific biologically active environments. BPI’s certification program operates in conjunction with education and advocacy efforts designed to support the broader mission to keep food scraps and other organics out of landfills.