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Breaking down the value of compostable packaging

When a consumer tosses a product’s outer packaging into the trash, instead of recycling or composting it, the consumer may have a negative impression of the company. To improve a company’s environmental impact, while improving the consumer’s brand experience, companies are increasingly addressing the challenges around packaging and waste.

There are multiple paths to divert waste from going to landfills, such as reuse, recycling, composting, incineration or digestion with capabilities to capture energy. A company should consider several factors, including packaging functionality, available recovery infrastructure and value of the solution in determining a waste solution.

Here are some of the opportunities and challenges related specifically to composting:

Cost: The design stage is when a package will be designed to enable compostability through choices such as materials and thickness. Brands must be prepared to pay for this packaging attribute, though. Often compostable packaging incurs higher costs compared to a standard packaging. Added costs may come from materials, testing, additional resources or necessary certifications.

Performance: There may also be limitations on materials available that meet performance needs in a compostable material offering.

Infrastructure: The infrastructure for commercial composting in the U.S. is still in its infancy, but many stakeholders are interested in fostering its growth. One opportunity that could fuel these advancements is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) goal to reduce food waste nationally by 50% by 2030 from the 2010 baseline. Composting is one means to reduce food waste. Thus, progress towards this goal could result in improvements in composting infrastructure resources, availability and viability.

However, where composting infrastructure exists, compostable packaging is not always accepted into the program. Thus, it is important for the industry to stay engaged to make the case for composters to accept compostable packaging.

We are yet to see what infrastructure for composting will look like in its mature form. Efforts for national brands to implement national programs will need to engage locally to be successful. The opportunity that brands have now is to establish themselves as progressive leaders in the industry with proactive behavior, taking initiative in composting and developing packaging that is conducive to the processes available.

Consumer engagement and collection: Helping consumers understand how to properly dispose of compostable packaging is key to realizing its value and potential.

However, the concept of composting and compostable packaging is a newer idea for many, and may not be as well understood as recycling. There are also legal requirements companies must navigate to ensure they do not unintentionally mislead consumers, as detailed in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides. GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition has developed a consumer-facing on-pack program called the How2Compost label, which aims to clearly, and simply communicate to consumers the appropriate action to take.

There has been successful deployment and collection of compostable packaging in specific localized instances, such as sports stadiums, institutional cafeterias and cities with local curbside collection programs that accept compostable packaging. For example, if the stadium requires all vendors to use only compostable packaging, it makes it easier for event attendees and staff to dispose of the packaging properly. Additionally, most of the packaging material will remain in the venue, so the facilities managers can capture a high volume of compostable material.

Read the full article:
http://www.packagingdigest.com/sustainable-packaging/breaking-down-the-value-of-compostable-packaging-2016-10-19

Source: Packaging Digest

Food packagers prefer recyclable over compostable materials

The latest finding from Packaging Digest’s Sustainable Packaging Study is that recycling is preferred over compostable packaging. In the survey 57% of brand owners and packaging suppliers sited recyclability as the most important environmental claim. Recyclability has the advantage of already having a large infrastructure in place that can collect, sort and sell the recycled materials.

Commercial composting facilities, which are necessary to create composted materials that can be reused, are less available and often require a drive to offload the materials for composting. This additional use of gas negates some of the green benefits of composting. Since only 20% of the total respondents polled selected compostable as important to their environmental claims, compostable might not offer a good return on investment.

To read the full article, go to
http://www.plasticstoday.com/food-packagers-prefer-recyclable-over-compostable-materials/35071181924370

Source: Plastics Today

The Difference between Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging Materials

Many packaging products boast environmentally-friendly benefits such as “biodegradable” and “compostable” materials. But what exactly do these terms mean, and what is the difference between them?

 

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

Biodegradable refers to the ability of materials to break down and return to nature. In order for packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal – typically a year or less. The ability to biodegrade within landfills helps to reduce the buildup of waste, contributing to a safer, cleaner and healthier environment. Materials that are biodegradable include corrugated cardboard and even some plastics.

 

What Does Compostable Mean?

Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials, as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. However, compostable materials go one step further by providing the earth with nutrients once the material has completely broken down. These materials are added to compost piles, which are designated sites with specific conditions dependent on wind, sunlight, drainage and other factors. While biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions.

The future of compostable packaging is bright

A multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder systems approach is needed to fully realize the potential of compostable packaging.

 

Large-scale composting has the potential to take approximately one-third of the municipal solid waste stream out of landfills, benefiting the economy, retaining resource availability and addressing climate change impact. Food waste comprises more than 10% of the U.S. waste stream, making it the third largest component.

 

Here are three areas to focus on, along with next steps. Certainly the future of composting and compostable packaging are bright, though the pace of growth remains frustratingly slow.

 

  1. Policy Approaches: Both voluntary and mandatory approaches are detailed, to include case studies, in the EPA’s recently published Managing and Transforming Waste Streams Tool for localities.

 

  1. Outreach and Education:Localities, composters, non-profits and compostable packaging manufacturers and brands can all help answer these critical questions:
    1. Why? In absence of strong policy drivers, why should an organization divert its food and compostable packaging waste?
    2. How? A number of toolkits are now available to help with this question within a number of sectors, but a national resource is needed.
    3. What? Particularly for packaging, this piece is critical to reducing and/or eliminating contamination.

 

  1. Contamination: Recyclers and composters are not merely waste disposal services, but also manufacturers looking to create a viable product. As with recycling, the more contamination that occurs, the less valuable the product and more expensive the process.

 

 

http://www.packagingdigest.com/sustainable-packaging/the-future-of-compostable-packaging-is-bright1511

 

Source: Packaging Digest

Interest in bio-materials & boosting compostable packaging

The new trend in packaging materials continued to be influenced by sustainable strategies and goals. However, the topic of compostable packaging continues to be dismissed before actually being considered. Susanna Carson, president, BSI Biodegradable Solution spoke at this past SustPack 2015 in Orlando, Florida. She discussed a case study on one brand owner who brought stakeholders together to create an environmental solution to packaging needs.

In her discussion, “Certification vs. Collaboration: Securing End of Life Options for Compostable Packaging” she touched upon the highest level of interested for environmental friendly packaging is from consumers. The more consumers become interested and educated on the end of life impact of packaging waste in our oceans and landfills the more they are tired of convenient packaging that inevitably sits for thousands of years. Compostable packaging is being driven by consumers and adopted by companies that are listening to what people want. While the interested and demand is high, the use of compostable packaging is low. Companies are still working out pricing, operational issues, facility acceptance, and material performance. Carson emphasized that no one wants to fail and that developments take time.

Compostable packaging is the result of incredible advancements in technology. Plant-based, and bio based polymers perform on par with conventional petroleum-based materials, except that certified compostable packaging will not spend the end of life in landfills and oceans. The similarity is striking; however, it can make it hard for facilities to differentiate between the three types of packaging which can result in facilities rejecting material because it may cause contaminants in their healthy compost.

For further reading on Susanna Carson’s case study and for the full article, please visit http://www.packagingdigest.com/sustainable-packaging/will-interest-in-bio-materials-boost-compostable-packaging-in-the-us150324

 

Source: Packaging Digest