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US Composting Council and Biodegradable Products Institute release compostable product guidance

Food waste inside of a paper bag
Food is consistently the top material landfilled each year, with the majority of the 4,000+ compost facilities in the U.S. set up to process only yard trimmings.

The US Composting Council (USCC) and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) have released joint guidance on how best to address compostable products in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs for packaging, part of a new strategic partnership designed to guide the extensive collaboration that exists between the two organizations. Collaboration on principles for EPR and the work of a joint task force have already contributed to the passing of an EPR bill in Colorado that contains provisions specific to composting.

Food is consistently the top material landfilled each year, with the majority of the 4,000+ compost facilities in the U.S. set up to process only yard trimmings. As communities and businesses look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are establishing programs to collect food scraps for composting, requiring infrastructure to change and expand. USCC and BPI support a variety of funding mechanisms to help cover the costs of collecting and processing compostable products associated with food scraps, including EPR programs that collect fees from the sales of compostable products. 

"We need solutions that reward participation and incentivize investment," says Rhodes Yepsen, executive director at BPI. "Designed well, EPR programs provide a unique opportunity for certified compostable product manufacturers to support the cost of processing their products in food scraps programs. While EPR is not a silver bullet, we're excited by the potential for these programs to bring together stakeholders and initiate solutions we've long needed.

In their joint guidance document, USCC and BPI lay out specific recommendations for EPR programs that include: specifying how fees should be allocated, defining what products and materials should be included, ensuring representation in Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) and advisory councils, exempting compostables from PCR requirements, establishing compatibility with existing food scrap collection goals, and specific eco-modulation guidance. EPR fees should not, however, be considered the only means of funding a national network for food scrap composting, which would need to be addressed through grants/loans and voluntary funding mechanisms.

USCC and BPI have also approved parameters for a formal strategic partnership to build on the considerable collaboration that already exists between the two groups. Shared organizational objectives include: increased diversion of food scrap from landfills to composting facilities, reduced greenhouse gas production, reduced contamination from food scrap feedstocks to composting facilities, and improved soil health through the use of compost. One of the items specifically called out in the agreement is a joint committee to develop a model bill for the labelling and identification of compostable products and packaging. 

"USCC and BPI have a long history of working closely together," said Frank Franciosi, executive director of USCC. "Our joint efforts as part of the US Composting Infrastructure Council (USCIC) helped build support for the COMPOST Act and the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act, the first pieces of federal legislation to specifically address composting infrastructure. Having a more formal framework for collaboration gives us the structure we need to increase the effectiveness of the work we do together."

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