The Composting Consortium, a collaboration of industry partners managed by Closed Loop Partners, has announced the launch of a new pilot designed to provide more in-depth insights into the compostability of compostable packaging. It aims to improve available data on what happens to certified, food-contact compostable foodware and packaging at various types of composting facilities––from static piles to worms to GORE covers. Called the Compostable Packaging Degradation Pilot, the initiative is the most comprehensive collaborative study of real-world compostable packaging disintegration in the U.S. to date.
The facilities participating in the project include Ag Choice; Atlas Organics; Black Earth Compost; The Foodbank, Inc. of Dayton, Ohio; Happy Trash Can Curbside Composting; Napa Recycling; Specialized Environmental Technologies, Inc.’s Empire Facility; Veteran Compost and Windham Solid Waste Management.
The pilot will evaluate the decomposition of more than 30 types of certified compostable products and packaging––including compostable cutlery, moulded fibre bowls, bioplastic cups and snack packaging––across facilities operating in different climates, using different composting methods and equipment.
The Consortium is collaborating with the US Composting Council (USCC) and the Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF) on this project. Other partners include the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), BioCycle, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and various consumer and packaging brand companies. Working with these partners ensures that the objectives, methodology and data are aligned with the operational realities of composting facilities, and support circular and economically viable outcomes for composters.
The data collected from this pilot will be donated to the Compostable Field Testing Program (CFTP), a non-profit international research platform which facilitates field testing across North America.
Donating the data generated from the pilot will accelerate the open-source publication timeline for the CFTP’s data set and supportthe development currently ongoing within ASTM International of an in-field standard for assessing the disintegration of compostable items at compost facilities.
CFTP is supporting the Pilot by providing its methodology, composter training and operations. Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), a sustainability and recycling consulting firm, will administer the on-site data collection and lead the data analysis and reporting.
“Systems change starts with understanding what is true in a supply chain today and partnering with stakeholders to create the future we want to see,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We are grateful for our partnerships with industry leaders and compost facility operators as we identify a path forward to increased diversion of valuable resources from landfill while driving value for compost manufacturers.”
The Degradation Pilot is a critical step in the Composting Consortium’s broader work to identify best practices in areas including consumer understanding of compostable packaging labelling and collection; sortation and sensing technologies; and policy. The Consortium will continue its collaborative work to build a roadmap for catalytic capital inputs that can support composting infrastructure in the U.S., find ways to increase the amount of food waste diverted from landfills and determine where compostable food packaging could add value to the system.