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2015: Year of Composting

Last week, I attended my fifth U.S. Composting Council conference. It was great opportunity to network with many members and allies in attendance, as well as learn more about the composting industry in general.


What I came away with from this year’s conference was boy, is there a lot of work to be done… by FPI and many other stakeholders.


A prevalent topic – whether addressed by presenters or during private conversations – was the growing interest in composting food scraps. [There’s a lesson from last week: let’s stop referring to it as “food waste” and use “food scraps” instead. Food in any form should not be considered “waste.”]


Governments at all levels are recognizing that composting food scraps is a crucial element in any resource recovery program. After all, food is the single largest contributor to landfills, representing about one-fifth of all discards in the municipal solid waste stream. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is promoting its Food Recovery Challenge to prevent and reduce wasted food. States like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont have adopted laws that mandate food scraps be composted instead of landfilled. And cities, especially those looking to achieve “zero waste,” are implementing food composting programs. Consider that, according to the latest research in this month’s edition of BioCycle, there are 198 communities in the U.S. that offer curbside collection of food scraps – up from just 24 about 10 years ago. That’s progress, but more needs to be done.


One big question is, how will the current composting infrastructure adapt to collect these materials? A 2014 report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance identified nearly 5,000 composting operations in the U.S. (based on data from 44 states). Yet, of those, less than 10 percent accept food scraps or mixed organics. The vast majority of composters accept only yard trimmings today.


So, what does this mean for the compostable packaging community? Clearly, there’s an opportunity. We’ll need to work together with other stakeholders to support the much needed work to expand the composting infrastructure for food scraps, and the packaging that can enable this critical diversion from landfills. FPI, through our Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group, will look to work with the U.S. Composting Council and others to develop supportive public policy around composting, help to reduce contaminants that discourage the acceptance of food scraps and packaging, identify and promote best practices by composters already processing food scraps and packaging and assist foodservice operators interested in composting.


The United Nations has declared 2015 as the “International Year of Soils.” Around here, perhaps we should consider it the Year of Composting!

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 1/27/2015 11:09:41 AM