Unpacking Labeling and Design: U.S. Consumer Perception of Compostable Packaging


July 11, 2023

A large portion of U.S. consumers have trouble identifying which bin to throw their compostable packaging in. What does it take to address this challenge?

Our report unpacks effective design and labeling techniques to improve the proper diversion of food-contact compostable packaging to the appropriate material stream.

Over the last decade, the volume of compostable materials in the market has been steadily increasing, and the market for compostable packaging is poised to grow 17% annually between 2020 and 2027. Yet there remains limited publicly available data on U.S. consumer perception of compostable packaging design and labeling. As the compostable packaging industry continues to innovate rapidly, we must find ways to simplify and standardize approaches to the design and marketing of these new materials. This groundbreaking, joint study between the Composting Consortium and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) offers first-of-its-kind, publicly available data on U.S. consumer perceptions of compostable packaging.

Consumer Insights Report

Closed Loop Partners’ Composting Consortium and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) released a groundbreaking, joint study offering first-of-its-kind, publicly available data on U.S. consumer perceptions of compostable packaging.

Read the full report

Read the policy brief

Resource Library

  • Key Findings

    Overview from our report on consumer perception of compostable packaging.

  • Policy Brief

    Summary and recommendations on compostable packaging for U.S. policymakers.

Key Findings

  • Design for Circularity


    • Up to 49% of respondents had difficulty distinguishing between the terms “compostable” and “biodegradable” which can lead to improper disposal of compostable packaging at its end of life.

    • The phrase “made from plants” is often used on both recyclable and compostable packaging. Up to 50% of respondents said they would place packaging labeled with “made from plants” in the composting bin.


    • Reconcile confusing terms used on packaging, including but not limited to “biodegradable” and “made from plants.”

    • Brands and retailers must prominently call out industrial or home compostability on their packaging to explain end-of-life disposal to consumers. Our research found consumers best understood and preferred packaging that used two to three design elements (e.g., coloring, text size, etc.) to indicate compostability.

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  • Educate Consumers


    • Many consumers do not know where to dispose of compostable packaging at its end of life. 28% of respondents said they would place compostable packaging in the recycling bin.

    • Organics collection access and infrastructure do not necessarily improve consumer comprehension of where to dispose of compostable packaging.

    • Not all home composters understand the limitations of a commercially compostable item. One-third of respondents said they would place commercially compostable items into their compost bins or piles at home.


    • Educating the U.S. population on what packaging should be placed in the recycling bin and industrial organics bin is critical to ensuring the success of clean material streams in both recovery systems.

    • Municipalities and local governments with zero waste targets can help bridge this comprehension gap by partnering with brands, retailers, haulers, composters, NGOs, and others on educational campaigns to encourage new social norms and sustainable behavior.

    • As the market for home composting continues to grow, home composting certification standards can help distinguish items that have been specifically designed and tested for home compost bins and piles.

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  • Collaborate Across the Value Chain


    • A disjointed approach with local and state level policies and regulations that govern packaging design and labeling creates unnecessary friction and pain points for consumers, brands and composters.


    • Policymakers, brands, and retailers can work together to harmonize the policies, regulations, and design of compostable packaging nationally so it works for brands across several sectors and packaging of all shapes and sizes.

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Policy Brief

This policy brief provides policymakers with a snapshot and high-level overview of the key findings of our report, as well as recommended actions for compostable packaging policymaking.

Read the policy brief