By Susan Thoman

CMA has been working with supply chain leaders and North America’s top compost manufacturers to engage in a collaborative and streamlined system of continuous systems improvement in the compostables space. One area of concern for compost manufacturing and hauling industry experts are the product categories that compost manufacturers currently don’t want to migrate into their systems.  These include cleaning related supplies (sponges, wipes), and other non-food items (shampoo bottles, soap labels, pet waste bags). At the same time, some categories are highly desired by compost manufacturers to eliminate high levels of current contamination they continue to get in food scrap streams. Yet, we see no movement in these categories in developing compostable alternatives.

Compostability as a packaging product attribute makes sense within the solid waste system when it does one of four things-

  1. It increases the diversion of food scraps from landfill to composting (EX: foodservice packaging in dine-in facilities, compostable kitchen bucket liners)
  2. It prevents non-compostable items from cross-contaminating recycling and composting streams (EX: hot and cold paper lined beverage cups)
  3. It solves a contamination issue in the compost piles (EX: Green colored produce bags, labels and produce labels)
  4. It is employed as a contamination reduction strategy to address the most prevalent contaminants in the pile (EX: CMA certified produce labels)

Assuming you do home composting or have a curbside collection program in your city, look in your refrigerator or pantry shelf and ask yourself this simple question- what items would you naturally toss into compost once it passed its shelf life IF the container or wrapper was CMA certified compostable? Those items, and packages they are in, could significantly increase food tonnage diversion. Considering that, here is a wish list of the categories, when color marked and CMA certified, that would provide significant value to a compost manufacturer, while alleviating current inbound plastic contamination.

CMA Color Marked Compostable Product Wish List

Produce bags

Salad bags

Plastic lettuce wrapping

Frozen vegetable bags and boxes

Bread bags

Cereal box interior bags

Grocery store take-out bakery and deli bags

Grocery store deli container items (salad tubs, food tubs)

Take out hot chicken containers

Mesh onion bags

Many motivated companies are working to lead the charge in minimizing plastic pollution through compostables, but there is limited movement to develop products with the most value to the compost manufacturer, the community, and the environment.  There is limited dialogue between the supply chain, solid waste specialists, cities, and the compost manufacturers when designing products for a future of increased recycling and less plastic pollution. CMA continues to offer a compost manufacturer’s perspective in this important space, working with “best in class” operations and compost industry experts. We welcome more dialogue within our collaborative network to create mutual value through a shared vision of the compostable space. Together we can pragmatically and effectively create a common vision of what success looks like from both the supply chain and solid waste/recycling systems.