After a long deliberative process, the US Composting Council (USCC) and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) have officially released a set of guiding principles to give a framework for future legislation on compostable product labeling.
Why do guidelines like these matter?
We might be preaching to the choir, but unfortunately, politicians are not always clued in on the most recent scientific breakthroughs. Trawling through the mountains of data and making sense of all the numbers isn’t exactly their forte. They don’t always have the time or technical knowledge to take all that data and turn it into meaningful legislation.
That’s why, sometimes, the experts have to do that legwork for them.
The Composting Labeling Task Force (a group made up of compostable business representatives, compost manufacturers, certifiers, and municipal leadership) created this set of guiding principles to help legislators base their future proposals on industry-backed expertise.
The Proposed Compostable Product Labeling Legislative Guidelines
While certainly not exhaustive, these principles can give any future legislation a healthy and comprehensive foundation.
In addition to current legislation (which includes requirements for third-party certification and testing to current ASTM standards), the new guidelines also include:
- Limiting compostability claims to products that touch, contain or carry food products, scraps or other organic material accepted by compost manufacturers
- Prohibiting misleading or unsubstantiated terms (“biodegradable,” “degradable,”“decomposable”)
- Recommending field testing to ensure compatible facility conditions
- Requiring compostable products such as produce and food collection bags, and other food service ware to be labeled “compostable,” carry a certification mark, and (product depending) distinguish themselves with green, brown, or beige color, tint, or quarter-inch stripe
- Prohibiting non-compostable food packaging and food service ware from using identical compostable colors, labeling or marks
- Restricting degradation claims to specific, intended environments (i.e., compost, agricultural soil), and
- Exempting compostable products from using resin ID codes to reduce consumer confusion
While they all touch on an aspect of the composting labeling issue, these guidelines center around a growing theme: labeling that is easily distinguishable, safeguarded against greenwashing, and geared to actually leave the earth better (and not just prevent further contamination).
Interest in composting has been rising across the US, and legislation based on these guidelines can help set up these consumers for success. The goal is to help these consumers make informed decisions without adding too much of a burden to the product manufacturers at the same time.
Having all voices at the table—especially this early in the process—is a rare beacon of hope for the future. Can brands, manufacturers, and regulators all actually get on the same page on this? If these guidelines are any indication, then we only hope there’s more to come.
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