Catching Up on the Ketchup Packet Conundrum

Large sports events, conferences, school campuses, fairs, and other public facing gatherings serving food provide both opportunities and challenges in striving for zero waste. With more venues utilizing compost collection services, it is important to ensure your contractors and food service partners work diligently to eliminate potential upstream contamination in compost.

One common contaminant stressing our composting systems are small condiment packets used for mustard, mayo, relish, soy sauce, hot sauce and the like. These packets are made from plastics and/or foil and are not compostable or recyclable. Their small size and prevalence in compost collection programs make them insidious to see or remove, while trillions of these are produced every year.

To address this, we encourage venues that compost to immediately move away from their usage by switching to reusable pumps and bottles and/or to encourage your suppliers to work upstream on replacing them with versions that meet established compostability standards in both the lab and the field, and we welcome more development of materials and structures that might work as compostable replacements, and are easily distinguishable when mixing recyclables and compostables for collection at public venues.  

These packets also accumulate in our drawers and refrigerators at home and work as Americans are utilizing more take-out meal delivery options. Thus, if you have a growing number of packets in drawers going back to the early nineties, you might want to review this 2016 article by Ernie Smith at Tedium to learn more about their shelf life.

CMA encourages all venues to consider contamination reduction a priority when establishing or improving their procurement and composting practices in the future. Be mindful that making better choices can have a positive impact on the composting industry’s ability to cost-effectively create high quality soil amendments. Composters everywhere THANK YOU for your commitment to keeping compost feedstocks clean and free of plastics.