By Susan Thoman
With plastics reduction and proposed EPR legislation burgeoning across the globe, compostables may provide a viable option to brands and manufacturers working to limit their impact on the environment. That naturally leads to considering compostability as an addition to a product line’s attribute portfolio. The sustainability model for taking single-use packaging with food scraps, turning it into chemical-free soil amendments, and then growing more food with it is compelling. The science is there to show that making and applying compost plays a major role in mitigating climate change by minimizing materials shipped to landfills (where methane generated creates greenhouse gases as much as 32 times more potent than C02 that is naturally respirated when organic material breaks down). When we apply compost to landscapes, farms and gardens, we also sequester carbon in the soil, purify our rivers, streams and lakes, and filter out toxins in our environment.
The CMA team has built a growing space for supply chain leaders and the largest compost manufacturing companies in the U.S. to come together and co-create a future with realistic and pragmatic programs that employ compostables. This synergistic model, now in its fifth year, has influenced the planning, investment, and engagement of some of the largest brand owners and food service packaging suppliers on the globe. We are very proud of that, and we have stayed consistent in our mission from the start. Is it easy? No. Is it disruptive to the status quo? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely. There cannot be a legitimate commercial or curbside compostables program without facilities that support it, and that message (which many of us have been sending for almost two decades) is finally showing up within formidable packaging groups and entities. We thank you for that.
As we do what we can to work collaboratively on solutions, CMA continues to see a glaring absence of solid waste experts in high level strategic gatherings and discussions around compostables being held by various associations, non-profits, investors and think tank groups. To be frank, leaving out the end-of-life experts needed to help envision practical efforts around compostables designed for large scale solid waste systems is like building a road with no destination. Without the facilities and their long-term relationships with their ancillary stakeholders (haulers, cities) in place working together to accept and grow compostable programs, the upstream development of compostables has limited downstream potential. This cannot be addressed just by publishing guides or publications to explain the problem, by pressuring compost facilities to take compostables by writing them letters to tell them they are wrong, or by working on legislative efforts without their input to force them into it. The solution comes from building relationships over time, with mutual respect between both sides of the supply chain and solid waste systems. We must listen, learn, and envision a future together, not independent of each other. When we connect the deep relationships and experiences on both sides of the interdependent supply chain and solid waste system, we create a road we both own and build. Those relationships take time, and CMA can and does deliver the full spectrum and depth of the solid waste relationships needed to make co-creating compostables and compost a reality in some of the largest cities and markets in the U.S.
We look forward to continuing to enhance our vital program with the support of a growing number of compost facility operators, solid waste experts, and supply chain innovators. In 2022, we will begin hosting and offering strategy sessions and webinars that address (with equal input from both supply chain and solid waste experts) the opportunities and challenges in expanding downstream acceptance of compostables. If you would like to join this effort, please e-mail Diana Lloyd-Jones at email@example.com and put in the subject line I AM UP FOR DOWNSTREAM! We thank all the suppliers, manufacturers, brands, QSRs, major compost facilities, cities, haulers and others that have supported CMA. We appreciate the vision we all share to promote composting, pollution prevention and climate change mitigation, and continue to make that our working platform as we move into 2022.