Compostable Packaging Collaborative
Sharing knowledge and best practices on labeling and composting infrastructure for compostable packaging, including both fiber products and compostable bioplastics.
This Collaborative’s mission is to identify best practices for compostable packaging design and labeling, as well as to understand and support the composting industry, in order to catalyze the growth of compostable packaging. We do this through:
- Educating Collaborative members on the challenges and opportunities for compostable packaging design, labeling, supply, and collection through presentations from members as well as outside presenters from across the composting value chain.
- Providing resources to empower members to better understand the compostable packaging collection and consumer education landscape, including maps of composting infrastructure and food waste legislation resources.
- Supporting the development of future SPC compostable packaging work products, such as a best practices guide for brands and converters, by providing feedback as requested by the CPC chair and co-chairs, to inform the final deliverable.
Understanding Compostable Packaging
Compostable packaging is receiving significant attention from brands and retailers. 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) 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 turning to compostable packaging. 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 strategy for tackling currently unrecoverable packaging waste.
What is the value of compostable packaging, and why do we need it as part of a suite of solutions that improve the sustainability of packaging? Compostable packaging is critical for:
- Capturing and diverting food waste from landfills
- Creating a simplified consumer experience and a cleaner recycling stream
- Serving as an alternative to non-recyclable packaging
- Supporting biological cycles of the circular economy
- Supplementing carbon sources in the composting process
- Supporting soils as a carbon sink through composting
The first step to designing compostable packaging is to understand whether it is the right fit for your packaging application. Compostable packaging should not be a blanket solution for all packaging. Rather, it should be used in applications where it helps divert food waste out of landfills and into compost bins, reduce food scrap contamination of recyclable materials, or replace non-recyclable packaging.
Consumer Perceptions of Compostability
Increasingly, consumers report a strong preference for packaging to be compostable. Three recent studies help illuminate how compostable packaging is perceived by consumers.
A survey of European consumers found that 32% of consumers believe this type of packaging is the least damaging for the environment, and 50% of consumers would buy a product for its compostable packaging. (Amcor)
In the UK, 85 percent of surveyed consumers believe that food packaging should be compostable, with two thirds of those asked agreeing that the food industry should lead the move towards compostable packaging. (resource.co)
In the US, 60% of surveyed consumers called compostable packaging “extremely or very eco-friendly” (EcoFocus), and 71% of Millenials feel positive towards companies that only use packaging that is compostable (Evergreen Packaging).
Recordings from Past Collaborative Meetings
SPC members can log in to review presentations from past collaborative meetings.
Understanding the Role of Compostable Packaging in North America
This guide aims to provide a framework for understanding the best role for compostable packaging in a sustainable packaging strategy. It offers considerations for appropriate use cases, insights into composting infrastructure and municipal collection programs, and perspectives on composter and consumer engagement. It clarifies the recovery ecosystem surrounding compostable packaging today, for the benefit of brands, retailers, municipalities, consumers, and other stakeholders.
BPI's Guidelines For The Labeling And Identification Of Compostable Products And Packaging
The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) published new identification guidelines in 2020, making it "easy for consumers, composters and others to identify compostable products and packaging, with the goals of reducing contamination, facilitating food scrap composting programs, and decreasing landfill methane production."
Composting Facilities Map
The Compostable Packaging Collaborative brings together members from across the value chain to discuss issues, share resources, and identify best practices.
GreenBlue has developed several interactive maps and charts of composting infrastructure and supportive legislation in the United States, available on Tableau Public:
These maps seek to provide insight into basic questions such as where composting facilities are located in the United States and how many accept compostable packaging. Additionally, the maps display where state and local legislation has banned the disposal of food waste to landfills. Legislation that bans food waste from landfills often spurs the expansion of composting infrastructure, since composting is identified as one of several alternative pathways for food waste.
Composting access maps show composting facility locations overlaid on the United States by state and urban populations, with more densely populated areas in darker blue. Information on state and urban populations might be used to calculate residential access to composting programs. It can also be used to identify high-population cities that do not currently have sufficient access to composting infrastructure, and are therefore unable to compost food waste or compostable packaging.
Food Waste Legislation Map
The map shows state and municipal-level food waste legislation in the United States. This map can be used to identify which states and municipalities are requiring composting in order to divert food waste from landfill.
Essentials of Compostable Packaging
The Essentials of Compostable Packaging is an immersive foundational course that explores the basics of composting, the current state of composting infrastructure, residential and commercial access, as well as best practices for compostable packaging design, labeling, testing, and certification.
Access to this on-demand video course is available for free to SPC Members.
Value of Compostable Packaging Report
The Value of Compostable Packaging Report explores how compostable packaging may enable increased food scrap diversion, building feedstock for compost manufacturers.
Biocycle's 2017 State of Organics Recycling Report
BioCycle asked states to complete an organics recycling “Snapshot Survey” to collect most recent data on composting, anaerobic digestion and quantities of organics diverted.
How2Compost is a standardized on-package label that clearly communicates composting instructions to the public. Both How2Compost and How2Recycle, its companion program, involve a coalition of forward thinking brands who want their packaging to be recycled and composted and are empowering consumers through smart packaging labels.
Plant Based Products Council
The Plant Based Products Council strives to guide the evolving global economy toward more sustainable and responsible consumer products and packaging.
US Composting Council Target Organics Project
The USCC Target Organics Project aims to assemble resources that can be used to advance compost infrastructure and compost use in local communities across the United States.
Field Study: Foodservice Packaging as Compost Facility Feedstock
This field study was designed to answer the following question: How does compostable foodservice packaging compare with other conventional organic inputs (e.g. yard trimmings, straw, wood shavings, grass, food scraps, etc.) in its contribution to balancing targeted carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratios, providing nutrients, and acting as a bulking agent in compost feedstocks?