Compostable packaging may degrade into the ground over time, but it’s here to stay in terms of popularity.
Packaging made with compostable materials is poised to increase significantly over the next decade, according to PMMI Business Intelligence and AMERIPEN’s collaborative report, “2023 Packaging Compass.”
The study’s findings are congruent with those found in Allied Market Research’s 2020 Compostable Plastic Market report, which predicts a 15-16% compound annual growth rate in compostable plastic use by 2027.
Some see compostable packaging as the ideal circular economy story. Products are created from natural materials and returned to the earth via degradation back into the soil and basic elements. Compostable packaging can provide a simple one-step collection process, eliminating the need for consumers to wash and clean food contact packaging before disposal.
That story isn’t perfect though; the promise of compostable packaging is hindered by the lack of infrastructure in the U.S. to meet both food and organic waste needs.
Only 27% of the U.S. population has access to food waste composting programs, and even less (11%) can direct compostable packaging away from the landfill to composting, according to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s report “Understanding the Role of Compostable Packaging in North America.”
Very few retailers or event outlets have compostable packaging collection programs. To realize the full circular potential of compostable packaging, the U.S. needs to increase consumer access to composting on two fronts. It needs to invest both in expanded access to composting facilities that accept food scraps plus packaging and in the collection of compostable materials.
As the U.S. looks at investments into the necessary collection and processing infrastructure, there may be a need to consider where compostable packaging collection could be most effective.
To achieve the greatest immediate impact, stakeholders may want to prioritize high-traffic locations like stadiums, food service outlets, and cafeterias before implementing a composting program at the household level.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence and AMERIPEN, “2023 Packaging Compass”
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