As more communities strive for zero waste, food scraps and associated packaging are a high priority for landfill diversion, and commercial composting facilities are a great option. What we didn’t know — at least not before co-funding a report with the Biodegradable Products Institute — were the potential benefits of using foodservice packaging and food scraps as feedstocks for composters.
So, we worked with Compost Manufacturing Alliance to test and report on how well those products would perform when compared to conventional carbon-bearing feedstocks like yard trimmings, straw, wood shavings and grass. A six-phase process was used that included: foodservice packaging selection and analysis; feedstock preparation; pre-process sampling and analysis; active composting and monitoring; post-process sampling and analysis; and reporting and review.
Compost Manufacturing Alliance conducted operational field tests at two different commercial composting facilities. Each test had two control samples using the facilities’ standard composting mix and two samples using compostable foodservice packaging in place of the facilities’ customary bulking agents and carbon sources.
To be thorough, an independent lab tested and analyzed the samples throughout the active composting process using Test Method for the Examination of Composting and Compost procedures. Once processed, the finished compost samples were tested for important compost characteristics, i.e. pH, nutrient content, organic matter and moisture content.
Great news! The results showed that foodservice packaging performed as well as wood and other traditional feedstocks. The testing showed that foodservice packaging (even at artificially high levels of 15 percent and 30 percent of tested blends) didn’t have an adverse effect on feedstocks or finished compost.
We think that these findings could give compost operators the option to use compostable foodservice packaging products as a feedstock, particularly in areas where composters may incur significant costs to source carbon-bearing feedstocks due to seasonally scarce materials.
Overall, we’re encouraged by these results and are excited to see their impact on the industry. Want to check out the results for yourself? The report is available here.