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Highlights from the 2014 Composting Conference

FPI has been attending the U.S. Composting Council’s annual conference for several years now. Besides spending time with friends and building relationships with other value chain partners, it’s great to hear about foodservice packaging from someone else’s very different perspective. I always come away with a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges we have to increasing the recovery of our products through composting. Here are a few highlight from this year’s conference.

 

Compostable Plastics Task Force: Several years ago, USCC created a "Compostable Plastics Task Force" to bring together various stakeholders to address issues related to, you guessed it, compostable plastics. The task force met to get updates from the various working groups and plan priorities for 2014. Be on the lookout for a new compostable plastics website being launched in the next month or so, and a new one pager on compostable plastics. Another key deliverable for this year will be draft model legislation related to labeling of compostable plastic products. FPI is an active participant in the task force to make sure the interests of the foodservice packaging industry are represented, and if you have any questions about these initiatives, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

 

Zero Waste = Composting + Recycling:  While much of the focus of the conference was on composting (of course!), several speakers rightly pointed out that zero waste – a goal for a growing number of communities – cannot be achieved by simply focusing on composting alone. This is especially important when it comes to foodservice packaging where recycling and composting are both equally viable recovery options.

 

Growing Interest in Food Waste: It seems that a couple of years ago, folks finally started to realize that a large chunk of municipal solid waste was food. In fact, food waste is the single largest contributor to discards going to landfills. And, an increasing number of cities have taken notice of the opportunity to divert this valuable resource. According to one speaker at the conference, there were just 24 residential food waste collection programs in the U.S. in 2005. By 2012, that number jumped to 185. Now, what FPI will have to work on is that those same municipalities (and their composters) include compostable foodservice packaging in these new diversion streams.

  

Education is key. Consumers. Foodservice operators. Packaging manufacturers. Raw material suppliers. City officials. So many parts of the value chain that need to be better educated on composting, and compostable foodservice packaging, issues. Interestingly, it was pointed out that foodservice distributors were one value chain partner that has not been part of many of these ongoing conversations. Let’s figure out how to make that happen. [Note: FPI hosted a webinar on compostable foodservice packaging last year with representatives from the Biodegradable Products Institute, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Composting Council. Check it out here if you missed it.]

 

One final comment that struck me during the conference and I’d like to leave with you… let’s stop using the phrase “end of life” when we talk about recovery options like recycling and composting. One speaker suggested “next life” as an alternative. If you think about it, when you compost foodservice packaging, it’s not the end of its life – it’s just the beginning of another stage in which that compostable foodservice package becomes compost. Here’s to making more compost!

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 2/4/2014 9:30:34 AM
 

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