What Are Certified Compostable Products?
5 min read
Jump to section
Most people are acutely aware of the plastic pollution crisis the world is facing today. It’s arguably the single most destructive thing humans have introduced to the planet, polluting our oceans, waterways, and land, poisoning animals, and even finding its way into human blood where it may lodge in organs, damage cells, and lead to chronic illness or premature death.
With these concerning facts in mind, it’s easy to understand the strong move away from single-use plastics and toward a safer, more sustainable solution. While recycling is certainly an option for some materials, 85% of recyclable plastics still end up in landfills. In response to the crisis, many major manufacturers are committing to using more recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials in their packaging.
Compostable bioplastics have been introduced as an alternative to traditional plastics. Made from plant fiber such as sugar cane, agave, and corn starch, the products look and perform like conventional plastics but can be fully broken down at the end of their useful life through industrial or home composting.
To support consumers in their efforts to choose composting whenever possible, a BPI certification helps to identify items that can be disposed of with other compostable organic waste. BPI Certification is a rigorous standard consumers can rely on to help them make better, more ethical decisions for their health and that of the environment.
“Certified Compostable” Defined
The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) has established a scheme for manufacturers to differentiate their compostable products. Products that pass BPI eligibility standards can then display BPI’s mark, indicating that it meets their exacting criteria.
To be eligible for BPI compostable certification, the product or material must satisfy the following requirements:
- The product cannot be a redesign of a product that is better suited to recycling.
- The product should not have to be disassembled to be composted.
- The product must be compatible with organic wastes that are typically collected for composting.
There are also labeling requirements; the point of certification is to be able to easily identify compostable products so we can all make more informed choices.
Manufacturers can make claims of compostability, but without third-party certification, you have to take their word for it. BPI certified compostable products will carry a certification mark that indicates it passes BPI standards and can be cycled through a composting program.
Composters also use this standard to identify and eliminate products that may pose a risk to their composting operation.
What is BPIs Role in Compostablity?
BPI’s role in compostability is to verify that products can be successfully broken down using commercial composting processes without negatively impacting the quality of the compost. Their ultimate goal is to scale the diversion of organic waste through scientifically based standards and partnership with manufacturers and other organizations committed to a more sustainable future.
Since 2002, BPI has led the way in identifying biodegradable and compostable products. When you see their certified compostable logo on the products you use, you can be confident that the item has been tested and verified by a reputable third-party (BPI) in a real-world environment. This is a critical component in the testing process, as lab results may be limiting.
Finally, a BPI certification repudiates false claims, meaning that manufacturers can’t simply state their products are compostable with the expectation of public acceptance. If a product claims to be organic, we always look for the certified organic logo. BPI certification provides the same level of confidence for compostability.
How to Identify BPI Certified Compostable Products
Products that are certified compostable by BPI are clearly indicated with the BPI certification mark. In addition to the BPI logo and mark, the item must also include:
- At minimum, one additional compostable claim
- The name of the company or brand (such as the store it’s purchased from)
- Disclaimer or qualifying language as required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Competition Bureau (CB)
The BPI mark and other components may be printed or embossed on the product, as long as it is clearly legible by both the consumer and the composter.
The concept of “qualifying language” simply means that composters, consumers, and end users can identify the product as compostable. In the case of consumer products, such as food service containers, drink cups, cup lids, bags, etc., the language can include instructions on how to dispose of the item. All such language must meet BPIs “readily and easily identifiable” requirement and are intended to make it easy for stakeholders to know how to dispose of the product.
BPI Certification and You
The plastic waste crisis is overwhelming in scope, but if everyone plays their part, we can begin to move in a positive direction. Awareness is the first step as it allows us to make conscious choices about the products we use and purchase.
Whether you compost in your backyard or use a curbside program, it’s useful to know what you can and can’t include. BPI certification is an easy way to identify products you can put in your curbside bin.
For example, bioplastics can’t be broken down efficiently using a backyard system as they require higher temperatures than can be accomplished at home. However, they can be put into your green bin and taken to a municipal composting facility.
The BPI mark lets you know that the disposable products you use can be safely composted. It also allows the composter to properly sort compostable waste and avoid including non-compostable products that might contaminate the mix.
Look for the BPI Certified Compostable mark where you shop. If your favorite restaurant is not yet using compostable containers, don’t hesitate to speak up. We must all do our part to make the world safer for generations to come.
If you can compost, either through a curbside program or in your backyard (depending on the product), it’s time to commit to using compostable products vs. other types of single-use plastics. In the absence of composting facilities, do your best to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. Working together, we can make a difference.