More than 82 percent of U.S. composters want a more universally recognizable label of compostability to prevent problems such as contaminating conventional plastic recycling streams with biopolymers, according to a new report.
The survey, Compostable Packaging: The Reality on the Ground, was compiled by the Charlottesville-based Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The study found composters are generally in favor of compostable packaging, but 10 percent only accept it on a limited, pilot basis because of problems with contamination.
Other issues highlighted by the report include difficulty in distinguishing between compostable and conventional products, and compostable packaging and tableware not breaking down quickly enough.
If companies collaborate to develop a consistent and coherent message about composting and recycling, this will raise the bar for public awareness and composting initiatives, the report said.
The harmonization of labels across states and regions would be a boon to both the packaging and composting industries.
Although 49.5 percent of composters require packaging to meet ASTM specifications, most called for a standardized labeling system, such as color coding or a clearly visible logo.
A standardized system would also help prevent greenwashing, said the composters, who accuse some companies of misleading consumers with unsubstantiated marketing claims about biodegradability.
This includes packaging that is only partially biodegradable, or labels that neglect to mention the long time frame needed for complete biodegradation, said the report.
However, overall, U.S. composters are in favor of compostable packaging. Some 72.5 percent said compostable packaging allows them to increase food-waste tonnages, while 75 percent promote, or are considering promoting, its use.
The bioplastic items that are most commonly accepted by composters include polylactic acid clamshells, PLA clear cups and paper cups with compostable linings.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.