Closed Loop Partners Joins Forces with U.S. Composters and Composting Industry to Launch Large-Scale In-Field Degradation Tests for Compostable Packaging

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January 23, 2023

Data from the pilot will be shared to help shape international standards for field testing compostable packaging and contribute to the launch of an open-source results database

NEW YORK, NY—January 23, 2023— The Composting Consortium, a collaboration of industry partners managed by Closed Loop Partners, announced Monday the launch of its Compostable Packaging Degradation Pilot. The initiative is the most comprehensive collaborative study of real-world compostable packaging disintegration in the U.S. to date. The project marks a milestone for the Consortium, as it aims to improve available data on how certified, food-contact compostable foodware and packaging is currently breaking down at various types of composting facilities––from static piles to worms to GORE® covers. Participating facilities include Ag Choice; Atlas Organics; Black Earth Compost; The Foodbank, Inc. of Dayton, Ohio; Happy Trash Can Curbside Composting; Napa Recycling; Specialized Environmental Technologies, Inc.’s Empire Facility; Veteran Compost and Windham Solid Waste Management.

Working with these industrial composting facilities across the U.S., the Compostable Packaging Degradation Pilot will evaluate the disintegration of more than 30 types of certified compostable products and packaging––including compostable cutlery, molded fiber bowls, bioplastic cups and snack packaging––across facilities operating with varying climates, composting methods and equipment. Data gathered from the assessment will inform the Consortium’s broader work to align the rapid growth of compostable packaging with on-the-ground operational and business needs of industrial composters.

Pilot development was informed by the expertise of the Consortium’s partners, including key industry collaborators such as the US Composting Council (USCC) and the Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF), as well as the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), BioCycle, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and consumer and packaging brand companies. These key stakeholders contributed technical knowledge to ensure that the pilot’s objectives, methodology and data align with the operational realities of composting facilities, as well as support circular and economically viable outcomes for composters.

Data collected from this pilot will be donated to the Compostable Field Testing Program (CFTP), a non-profit international research platform which facilitates field testing across North America. The CFTP is designed to develop comprehensive baseline data that correlates composting conditions with the disintegration of common compostable products and packaging. The Consortium’s donation of this data will accelerate the open-source publication timeline for the CFTP’s data set. Additionally, the Degradation Pilot will serve as a trial for the first, and still-developing, in-field standard for assessing disintegration of compostable items at compost facilities, under development within ASTM International. Results from this pilot will help to enhance and accelerate the final ASTM field test standard through ASTM Committee WK80528 for both mesh bag and bulk dose test methods. CFTP is supporting the Pilot by providing its methodology, composter training and operations. Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), a sustainability and recycling consulting firm, will administer the on-site data collection and lead the data analysis and reporting.

“The CFTP was collaboratively launched in 2016, knowing that our industry needed more open, available data about the correlations between composting conditions and the disintegration of common compostable products,” said Diane Hazard, Executive Director of the Compost Research and Education Foundation, a founding partner of the CFTP. “The Foundation is excited to be part of this important work. By donating data to the CFTP, Closed Loop Partners and its Composting Consortium help enable our organization to launch an open-source database on compostable packaging degradation results.”

The EPA estimates that around 4% of food waste is composted in the U.S., and as the composting landscape in the U.S. evolves, new materials are flowing through the organics stream. With these changes comes increasing pressure to successfully recover and process food scraps and food-contact compostable packaging. Many cities across the country are setting ambitious zero waste goals and, in some cases, mandating organics diversion. Amidst these efforts, the compostable packaging market is poised to grow 17% annually between 2020 and 2027, adding complexity to the challenge. With lookalike and imposter materials contaminating composting and recycling facilities, composters face challenges in efficiently processing inputs and maximizing valuable outputs.

“Systems change starts with understanding what is true in a supply chain today and partnering with stakeholders to create the future we want to see,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We are grateful for our partnerships with industry leaders and compost facility operators as we identify a path forward to increased diversion of valuable resources from landfill while driving value for compost manufacturers.”

“Leading the way in innovation and technology is what we do at Atlas Organics,” said Jorge Montezuma, Director of Engineering. “Our joint team of operations and engineering will provide insights that will guide the compostable packaging industry forward for decades to come.”

The Degradation Pilot is a critical step in the Composting Consortium’s broader work to identify best practices in areas including consumer understanding of compostable packaging labeling and collection; sortation and sensing technologies; and policy. The Consortium will continue its collaborative work to build a roadmap for catalytic capital inputs that can support composting infrastructure in the U.S., find ways to increase the amount of food waste diverted from landfills and determine where compostable food packaging could add value to the system.

 

About the Composting Consortium

The Composting Consortium is a multi-year collaboration to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps. The Composting Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. PepsiCo and the NextGen Consortium are founding partners of the Consortium. Hill’s Pet Nutrition parent company Colgate-Palmolive, Danaher Foundation, Eastman, The Kraft Heinz Company, Mars, Incorporated, and Target Corporation joined as supporting partners, and the Biodegradable Products Institute, the US Composting Council and the U.S. Plastics Pact joined as industry partners. Our advisory partners include 5 Gyres, Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Google, ReFED, Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF), the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), TIPA, University College London (UCL), Western Michigan University (WMU), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Learn more about the Consortium at closedlooppartners.com/composting-consortium/

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is at the forefront of building the circular economy. The company is comprised of three key business segments: an investment firm, innovation center and operating group. Closed Loop Partners brings together designers, manufacturers, recovery systems operators, trade organizations, municipalities, policymakers and NGOs to create, invest in, and support scalable innovations that target big system problems. In 2018, Closed Loop Partners launched its innovation center, the Center for the Circular Economy, which unites competitors to tackle complex material challenges and to implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. Learn more about the Center’s work at https://www.closedlooppartners.com/the-center/

 

About the US Composting Council

Founded in 1990, The US Composting Council advances compost manufacturing, compost utilization, and organics recycling to benefit our members, society, and the environment. Representing more than 800 members, about 500 of whom are manufacturers of compost, USCC’s mission is focused primarily on commercial compost manufacturing and marketing, and includes training, certification and education of compost facility operators; certification programs for compost testing; and lobbying and advocacy campaigns at the state and federal level.

About the Compost Research and Education Foundation

The Compost Research and Education Foundation, established in 1992, is an affiliate organization of USCC and supports initiatives that enhance the stature and practices of the composting industry by supporting scientific research, increasing awareness, and educating practitioners and the public to advance environmentally and economically sustainable organics recycling. The CREF has produced key publications that inform best practices for effective organics management, including the Test Methods for Evaluating Compost and Composting and the Compost Operations Training Course.

About the Compostable Field Testing Program

The Compostable Field Testing Program, or CFTP, is an international non-profit research platform which provides the method and materials to conduct field testing to composters across North America and beyond. Operating since 2016 as a collaborative venture between CREF and its partner BSIbio, the CFTP provides a standard test kit and a customizable protocol for the common ‘mesh bag method’. When participating facilities share back their results, this data is collected by the CFTP, aggregated and anonymized for eventual public release in an online database. This will provide comprehensive baseline data correlating composting conditions with the disintegration of common compostable products and packaging, enabling CREF, the public, the composting industry, compostable products industry and academics to develop tools for composters wanting to understand best practices for processing these feedstocks, and for product manufacturers to design products suited for real-world operating conditions.

About ASTM International

ASTM International is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. Today, over 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance health and safety, strengthen market access and trade, and build consumer confidence. ASTM’s leadership in international standards development is driven by the contributions of its members: more than 30,000 of the world’s top technical experts and business professionals representing 140 countries. Working in an open and transparent process and using ASTM’s advanced IT infrastructure, ASTM members create the test methods, specifications, classifications, guides, and practices that support industries and governments worldwide. ASTM Committee WK80528 is developing the first in-field standard for measuring disintegration of compostable items. This field test method will be available for composters to assess how well compostable items break down in real world conditions.

About Atlas Organics

Atlas Organics is a leading composting company, providing municipalities, corporations, local businesses, and residential homes with access to commercial composting facilities that process organic waste streams. Atlas offers both pickup and delivery of the highest-quality grade of finished compost, soil blends, and mulches for use in agricultural settings, landscaping, golf courses, gardens, and site development projects across the United States. Founded in Spartanburg, SC in 2015, Atlas is now a Generate Upcycle company––owned and operated by sustainable infrastructure leader Generate Capital, PBC. Together we are rebuilding the world. For more information, please visit www.atlasorganics.net and http://www.generatecapital.com/.

 

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For further information contact:

Closed Loop Partners Media Relations

[email protected]

 

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