October 9, 2023 | Compostable Packaging, Composting, Food Waste, Policies + Regulations

USCC, BPI Release Compostable Product Labeling Legislative Guidelines

Top: Image courtesy of BioBag Americas

The US Composting Council (USCC) and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) have released a set of guiding principles to inform model legislation for labeling compostable products. The principles were developed after months of consensus-building by a task force composed of both organizations’ members, including compostable product manufacturers, certifiers, municipal officials, and compost manufacturers. All agreed that products should be labeled with distinguishing elements including tinting and striping and the use of certification logos, while non-compostable items should be prohibited from using identical labeling and misleading terminology. Additionally, all compostable items should be defined by required lab testing and are encouraged to consider field testing.

“The Compostable Labeling Task Force debated how best to communicate to policymakers the challenges involved in ensuring compostable products make it to compost manufacturers, are easily identifiable, and break down in composting facilities,” said Frank Franciosi, USCC’s executive director. “Having representative voices at the table ensured that the principles reflect the real-world conditions and the business choices facing compost manufacturers. We hope product manufacturers, brands and regulators will quickly and voluntarily adopt these principles.” Adds Rhodes Yepsen, BPI’s executive director: “We are excited to partner with USCC on co-branded labeling principles that will guide policies to combat contamination from conventional packaging, and boost confidence in accepting certified compostable products. Policies around compost infrastructure and compostable product labeling vary greatly from state to state, and consistent requirements are needed for both producers and receivers of compostable products to be successful.”

While the few existing labeling bills include requirements for third-party certification and/or testing to current ASTM testing standards, additional USCC/BPI principles include:

  • Limit compostability claims to products that touch, contain or carry food products, scraps or other organic material accepted by compost manufacturers
  • Prohibit misleading or unsubstantiated terms such as “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “decomposable”
  • Recommend field testing to ensure compatible facility conditions
  • Require compostable products such as produce and food collection bags, and other foodservice 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
  • Prohibit non-compostable food packaging and foodservice ware from using identical compostable colors, labeling or marks
  • Restrict degradation claims to specific, intended environments (i.e., compost, agricultural soil)
  • Exempt compostable products from using resin ID codes to reduce consumer confusion

To date, compostable labeling laws that inspired and incorporate some of these principles have passed in Colorado, Minnesota, California, Washington State and Maryland. The principles can be downloaded at this link.

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