If you missed it, check out part one of this post here.
While a primary source for contamination starts with “ride-a-longs” (plastic bags, plastic water bottles, non-compostable food service ware and packaging, etc.) that are included along with compostable products, compostable products that do not actually disintegrate in the composting process are placing a significant cost burden on the compost receiving facilities. In turn, compost facility owners and operators are left unheard, and many have now chosen to exclude compostables from their program altogether, which then works against the supply chain manufacturers who have invested heavily in compostable options. In other words, it is a broken system that CMA members and affiliates are working to address.
Additionally, generators are simply unaware or unconcerned with what materials go into their collection bins, which further exacerbates the challenge. Our industry needs a shift toward continued growth in education at all levels, along with creating consequences for contamination. Commercial composters are taking the brunt of the effects; site litter, regulatory compliance issues, negative neighbor impacts, cross-contamination (wind), effects on product quality, expensive infrastructure and equipment purchases, and much more.
Our solution starts at the top and everyone is involved. The need for compostable packaging manufacturers, distributors, and diversion generators to fund research and buyer educational programs is paramount. Institutions, cafeterias, and sport venues committing to 100% compostable service ware that will effectively break down at their local commercial composter is a must. Zero waste events and conferences following suit and having disposal location monitors to eliminate user error and provide in the moment education is also a must. Communicating the true cost and value of compost is important as well. The sustainability benefits of compost have been proven effective. Having economic incentives with carbon credits, buyback programs, and water saving programs with local water facilities will provide value and incentives. We unite and together we make the shift.
Ultimately, we need to take care of our commercial composters and provide the support/education needed to keep the stream clean and continue to provide an end market for this amazing natural resource. Without significant improvement in eliminating contamination, more and more composters will refuse to take the material. Progress had been made in Colorado and if we focus on these solutions the future is promising.
CMA is planning to host a multi-stakeholder Compost Contamination Solutions event for its members, municipal partners, key brands and packaging companies, and any interested parties before the end of the year. If you would like to be part of this event, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and put CCS-I AM IN! in the subject line. We look forward to collaborating on solutions with you, and thank you for supporting your local composters!