When a consumer tosses a product’s outer packaging into the trash, instead of recycling or composting it, the consumer may have a negative impression of the company. To improve a company’s environmental impact, while improving the consumer’s brand experience, companies are increasingly addressing the challenges around packaging and waste.
There are multiple paths to divert waste from going to landfills, such as reuse, recycling, composting, incineration or digestion with capabilities to capture energy. A company should consider several factors, including packaging functionality, available recovery infrastructure and value of the solution in determining a waste solution.
Here are some of the opportunities and challenges related specifically to composting:
Cost: The design stage is when a package will be designed to enable compostability through choices such as materials and thickness. Brands must be prepared to pay for this packaging attribute, though. Often compostable packaging incurs higher costs compared to a standard packaging. Added costs may come from materials, testing, additional resources or necessary certifications.
Performance: There may also be limitations on materials available that meet performance needs in a compostable material offering.
Infrastructure: The infrastructure for commercial composting in the U.S. is still in its infancy, but many stakeholders are interested in fostering its growth. One opportunity that could fuel these advancements is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) goal to reduce food waste nationally by 50% by 2030 from the 2010 baseline. Composting is one means to reduce food waste. Thus, progress towards this goal could result in improvements in composting infrastructure resources, availability and viability.
However, where composting infrastructure exists, compostable packaging is not always accepted into the program. Thus, it is important for the industry to stay engaged to make the case for composters to accept compostable packaging.
We are yet to see what infrastructure for composting will look like in its mature form. Efforts for national brands to implement national programs will need to engage locally to be successful. The opportunity that brands have now is to establish themselves as progressive leaders in the industry with proactive behavior, taking initiative in composting and developing packaging that is conducive to the processes available.
Consumer engagement and collection: Helping consumers understand how to properly dispose of compostable packaging is key to realizing its value and potential.
However, the concept of composting and compostable packaging is a newer idea for many, and may not be as well understood as recycling. There are also legal requirements companies must navigate to ensure they do not unintentionally mislead consumers, as detailed in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides. GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition has developed a consumer-facing on-pack program called the How2Compost label, which aims to clearly, and simply communicate to consumers the appropriate action to take.
There has been successful deployment and collection of compostable packaging in specific localized instances, such as sports stadiums, institutional cafeterias and cities with local curbside collection programs that accept compostable packaging. For example, if the stadium requires all vendors to use only compostable packaging, it makes it easier for event attendees and staff to dispose of the packaging properly. Additionally, most of the packaging material will remain in the venue, so the facilities managers can capture a high volume of compostable material.
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Source: Packaging Digest