July 15, 2019
Compostable packaging is gaining steam. Though composting infrastructure is not yet widespread across the U.S., interest in this recovery pathway is growing rapidly. As more communities look to divert food scraps (currently at least 15% of the waste stream according to the EPA) out of the landfill, composting will be a big part of their materials management strategy. At the same time, cities across the U.S. are beginning to require compostable packaging for foodservice vendors, and retailers, quick service chains, and even airlines are jumping on board.
It’s not just food service that’s dabbling in compostables. In response to recycling challenges, CPGs are also starting to include compostable packaging as part of their packaging sustainability goals. Unilever, Danone, and PepsiCo have all included compostable packaging as a potential strategy for tackling currently unrecoverable packaging waste. Meanwhile, smaller food brands like Alter Eco chocolates, B.O.S.S snack bars, and Don Maslow coffee are experimenting with compostable wrappers.
So what do you need to know about compostable packaging to take advantage of this new business opportunity? In the SPC’s online learning course, The Essentials of Compostable Packaging, you’ll learn what’s key to consider in this burgeoning space:
1. “Compostable” is more than just “biodegradable”
If you’ve used the terms “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “bio-based,” and “compostable” interchangeably, you’re not alone. There is widespread confusion among manufacturers, brands, and consumers about what these words mean. But getting it right is crucial — Maryland, California, and Washington now regulate the use of these terms, and lawsuits have started to crack down on misleading or simply incorrect claims.
In our course, you’ll get clear guidance on the difference between biodegradability and compostability, as well as best practices for compostable packaging design and labeling.
2. Composters might not want your packaging — at least not yet
In many ways, the success of compostable packaging depends on composters. Composters want to take more material, but they also need to maintain profitable business models. As communities expand their organics recycling programs, it’s helpful to understand why these programs often start as food waste only, and the challenges cities and composters want to address before accepting packaging.
With this course, you’ll get insight into the perspectives of compost manufacturers and learn about the benefits and challenges that compostable packaging can bring to a composting facility. And if you’re not familiar with the composting process, the Essentials of Compostable Packaging starts by getting you up to speed on the basics of composting.
3. Backing up your packaging claims is crucial to success
With compostable packaging, your stakeholders want evidence that it truly breaks down in a composting facility. Composters are wary of being saddled with partly degraded bits of packaging, and cities don’t want to be complicit in greenwashing. Consumers are also getting savvy about packaging that’s missing credentials. You might be surprised by the skepticism towards products that are vaguely labeled.
Ensuring that your packaging is truly compostable starts with testing and certifying your products with one of the trusted certification programs design to verify claims for various materials. The Essentials of Compostable Packaging helps you start this journey by showing you everything you need to know to get started with compostable certification.
This course is part of the Essentials of Sustainable Packaging training program. Courses are available online on-demand with a one-year subscription, and special discounts are available for SPC members.