Community Compost Trial Results Encouraging
When it comes to composting, most people think about home composting food scraps. Or maybe, they think about commercially composting food packaging like Planet+ and Stalk Market Compostable Products. But there’s another category of composters out there—community composters.
“As demand for organics diversion increases, there is a huge demand for composting infrastructure,” said Janet Thoman, compliance director for the Compost Manufacturing Alliance.
Janet said creating new or expanding existing industrial composting facilities takes a lot of time and money. “Commercial infrastructure cannot keep up with demand,” she said. “As this tension increases, we need to find other ways of achieving our organics diversion goals.”
That’s where community composters come in.
“Communities are taking matters into their own hands, creating community-based solutions,” she continued. “From food rescue to scrap pick up on bicycles and community composting, these folks are fighting waste and climate change one community at a time. As these options increase, we anticipate there will be increasing demand for these community facilities to accept the compostable packaging that comes along with food scraps.”
Community Composting Trial Find Success
CMA and TAWA recently ran a field test at TAWA’s Trinity site to see if community composters could find success with CMA certified products.
David Alexander, founder of TAWA, got into composting when he saw food being thrown out from a warehouse.
“I thought I should rescue it,” he said. “I’d never been taught to make compost or how to grow plants, but it was something I felt like doing.”
David found the test promising as well and encouraged more research.
“Overall results were pretty good,” he said. “BPI, CMA, all of these certifications have really good criteria, but working with composters allows for more testing of different scenarios. There’s a lot of research to be done that I think could be very beneficial for the composters, the manufacturers, and the community.”
“A lot of compostable product manufacturers, they have doubts about community composters,” David said. “But we can make a difference. We’re a feature.”
Janet said the testing methods used at the community composters was the same as the test they do with industrial facilities. The results were encouraging.
“We identified potential variants that we might need to consider in the future,” said Janet. “Several product manufacturers gained information about how their products might perform in small scale facilities. They can compare those results to the results they have from industrial facility tests to identify variables that might affect the disintegration of their particular products. We saw disintegration results very similar to industrial composting results, suggesting there may be enough similarities between the two types to allow products to be both industrial and community composter accepted.”
Several Inno-Pak products were part of the test, and the results were encouraging. All of Inno-Pak’s products that were tested passed per CMA’s standards, and most of them passed with less than 5 percent of material left over at the end of the test. The products tested included:
- #4 Compostable INNOBOX EDGE
- 32 oz. Planet+ Hot Cup
- 20 oz. Planet+ Double Wall Hot Cup
- Hot Cup Lids for 10-20 oz. Hot cups
- 16 oz. Planet+ Cold Cup
- Stalk Market CPLA Cutlery Kit with Napkin
- Stalk Market Compact Produce Bag
“Our pilot community composting test was very successful in several ways,” said Janet. “The biggest success, and the goal of the pilot, was the collective knowledge we gained in the process.”
That knowledge will be helpful to the members of CMA, including Inno-Pak, in improving the compostability of their products.
“Industrial composting infrastructure is inadequate to meet the exponentially increasing demand for organics diversion,” Janet said. “We want to start learning the feasibility of this now so we can help inform and support the network of community composters doing this important work.”
PLA Performed Exceptionally
David was also optimistic about PLA, a plant-based material that mimics plastic.
“Here’s the thing about PLA: That’s probably the best performing material out of all compostable packaging,” he said. “We had potato, cane sugar, and more, but PLA outperformed all of them. But we need to prove it. PLA could be the future if it’s decomposing properly. It leaves 5% residue, maybe less. We need more research to prove consistency.”
PLA is used in many compostable products, including many Planet+ and Stalk Market Compostable Products.
Want to Learn More about Compostable Packaging?
Packaging and containers, including food containers, make up about a fourth of the waste in our country’s landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Making matters worse is the fact that food contact contaminates many materials that would ordinarily be recyclable. In fact, only about 9 percent of plastic gets recycled in the U.S.
Commercially compostable packaging addresses a significant gap in our waste streams. It can divert waste that would ordinarily wind up in landfills. Not only that, but it has the potential to turn that waste into soil additives that are good for the environment.
Inno-Pak is committed to bringing you the most innovative food packaging, including commercially compostable solutions that’ll help you grow your sustainable sales. Our Planet+ and Stalk Market Compostable Products brands will help your business achieve its sustainability goals. If you’d like to learn more about these products, then download our catalog of commercially compostable products.
Photos of TAWA supplied by Khaaliq Sanders who prepared the testing. Khaaliq is also featured in the first photo.