BY GAIL BARNES
Growing interest in composting
Composting brings many benefits to local communities, businesses, and farmers, as well as helping to protect natural land and water resources. Composting also makes economic sense. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on a per-ton basis, composting operations alone sustain four to eight times more jobs than landfills.
One only has to search for “composting” on Google or Twitter to see a growing interest in composting in general and compostable products and packaging in particular. A July 2014 article in BioCycle, the organics recycling authority, highlighted this trend, and reviewed composting basics, providing national and state-by-state statistics and job generation data and summarising model programmes, technologies and systems, and concluding with recommendations on how to grow composting in the US.
According to Brenda Platt, who along with Nora Goldstein authored the BioCycle article mentioned above, “the beauty of composting is that it can be small-scale, large-scale and everything in between. Why send resources out of the community when our neighbourhoods need food and our soils are starved for organic matter?”
Packaging and composting
When it comes to packaging and composting a recent industry publication described its role as “prominent yet precarious,” saying: “On one hand, it makes sense to send food-soiled material to the composter along with the desired food nutrients. And in self-contained locations such as cafeterias and events, an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to procuring packaging for the venue minimises confusion and sends the signal that diversion isn’t complicated.”
In order to reduce the confusion that exists around what can be composted or not, GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is working with stakeholders on initiatives designed to help alleviate some of the confusion that results in contamination, as well as expand the awareness and availability of composting as a viable waste solution.
Along with SPC members and the BPI – the entity that certifies packaging as compostable – the SPC is also consumer-testing a new version of the How2Recycle label that incorporates the BPI logo and qualifying language. This expanded application of How2Recycle is designed to elevate awareness of packaging that has multiple end-of-use components and/or options, as well as assist the composting community by reducing the confusion regarding what is compostable.
According to the How2Recycle website, consumers are reacting positively to the new How2Recycle label, with some quotes shown below:
“More products should do this!! It takes away the ‘guessing game’ of recycling.”
“I didn’t know these plastic films could be recycled. Thank you so much for providing this recycling information. I’m so glad to know I can recycle more things!!!!”
Flexible packaging set to expand
According to a new Canadean report, the global flexible food packaging market is set to reach close to 800bn pack units in 2018. According to an article on the report in an industry publication, “as consumers start to favour innovative products such as pouches over traditional glass, paper and metal packaging, an estimated 786,095 million units of flexible packaging will be consumed within global retail food markets in 2018. This means flexible packaging is set to expand its share in the food packaging market even further, reaching 53.1% in the next three years.”
The Canadean report finds that the global demand for pouches in the food market will grow by 2.489bn pack units between 2014 and 2017 – a 14.9% increase in the total food pouches market size. “Pouches are both lightweight and durable, meaning products can be stored more easily in cupboards, are less likely to get damaged and are lighter to transport,” says Kirsty Nolan, analyst at Canadean. “They also provide time-scarce consumers with instant meals and on-the-go snacks.”
Compostability can divert flexible packaging from landfill
The predicted growth in flexible packaging will exacerbate what has been described as the “plastic packaging industry’s greatest challenge,” since the source reduced nature of flexible packaging makes it extremely difficult to deal with in terms of traditional recycling, leaving landfill as the only end-of-life alternative.
With the increase in consumer awareness of composting, and implementation of more and more composting programmes by major municipalities such as New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, composting flexible packaging with food or kitchen waste seems to be an idea whose time as come.
Israeli startup Tipa believes that its biodegradable packaging can address both the flexible packaging and the food waste problem, through offering compostability as an end-of-life solution. According to Daphna Nissenbaum, the CEO of Tipa, speaking at an international packaging conference in Chicago in July, “as more municipalities develop a food waste collection infrastructure for composting, or as cities like New York encourage consumers to take food waste for composting to drop off sites as a part of the NYC Recycles programme, the possibility of including compostable flexible packaging with food waste will have a major impact in diverting this type of packaging from landfill.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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