Compostable Products Task Force (CPTF)
Compostable (adj): capable of undergoing aerobic biological decomposition in a compost system, such that the material becomes visually indistinguishable and breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass.
Compostable Product (n): Any product specifically manufactured to break down in a compost system at the end of its useful life. May be made from plastic, paper, or plant fibers, along with other ingredients that provide necessary form and functionality. The USCC supports the use of compostable products to the extent that they assist in the efficient collection of food and other organics that can be composted, and, by replacing conventional plastics, reduce physical contamination in finished compost products.
Compostable products include items such as bags, take-out containers, coffee pods, food packaging, cups, plates and serviceware.
All compostable products should be certified as conforming to ASTM or other international standards in order to prevent greenwashing, and to ensure that the products do not create problems for composters or the environment. Meeting the ASTM standards (D6400 or D6868) requires individual ingredients to be tested for biodegradability (consumed by microorganism), and the finished product to disintegrate (physically break down during composting), as well as be tested for plant toxicity and heavy metals. Certification in the U.S. is provided by BPI, The Biodegradable Products Institute.
Composters may want to field test already-certified products, to be sure the product will disintegrate in their specific system. To help make these tests more consistent, and collect data on how varying conditions impact disintegration, the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF) launched an open-source field testing protocol. With the success of the Cedar Grove Compost testing program, the Compost Manufacturing Alliance is also working on field testing and approvals using varying composting technology.
In 2011, in order to answer questions about and support the use of compostable products, the USCC facilitated the formation of the Compostable Products Task Force.
To provide an organizational structure that facilitates a dialogue among plastics producers, product manufacturers, purchasers and consumers of compostable plastic products, recycling and organics recovery program managers, and composters.
The CPTF’s goal was to influence the ongoing development of compostable products so that materials benefit the composting industry through increasing the diversion of organic waste, without adding burdens such as non-compostability of materials and added residue disposal. The Task Force encourages compost manufacturers to add their voice to the conversation so that end-of-life impacts can be considered as compostable products are in development.
The CPTF is an ad-hoc committee of the USCC. Membership is open to all interested individuals from across the “value chain”.
CURRENT PROJECTS AND RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
Model Compostable Labeling Legislation, first introduced in 2014, was updated in 2018 at a meeting at the USCC’s 26th Annual Conference. About 75 people attended the meeting.
- 2011 to 2017: The CPTF met annually at USCC’s Annual Conference
- A “Using Compostable Plastics to Enhance Food Scraps Collection” webinar presented to 150 participants
- A “Compostable Food Serviceware Quick Guide” developed by Standards and Practices Working Group and approved by USCC Board. Annotations and explanations can be found HERE
- Compostable Plastics Toolkit Launched! This toolkit is designed to help recycling coordinators, sustainability managers, and others determine if a compostable plastics program is appropriate for their organization and to guide them in the proper management of compostable plastics. The Toolkit was partially funded by a grant from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network to the City of San Jose.
- Compostable Plastic Labeling Guidelines were developed and distributed to provide guidance to manufacturers and distributors.
- The Second Compostable Plastics Symposium held at USCC Conference in Austin, TX.
Click here to see and hear the presentations.
- Compostable Plastics 101, a white paper on the topic, published with the support of the California Organics Recycling Committee of CRRA
- 1st Compostable Plastics Symposium held at the USCC Conference in San Jose, CA.
Click here to see and hear the presentation and notes from the follow-up meeting.
If you are interested in joining one of the working groups, click here.
Cary Oshins, USCC