“Green” packaging requires a crash-course on compostable versus biodegradable products

Responding to calls to go “green,” food establishments are increasingly using environmentally friendly packaging, but the terms often used to describe “green” materials are confusing. Of particular concern to composters is confusion between biodegradable and compostable food packaging and materials.

“Many well-informed people assume that when something is biodegradable, this means they can place it with yard and food waste that is made into compost,” said Susan Thoman, Cedar Grove’s Director of Business Development. “However, a vast number of biodegradable products contain materials that either won’t break down in a composting process, or should not be introduced as an ingredient for compost going into home gardens and residential landscaping.

“Packaging and food service products that are considered for acceptance by Cedar Grove must be tested against national technical standards,” Thoman said. “We then put the items in a test batch at our facility to be certain that it will process successfully into Washington state organic compost.”

Confusion between words such as biodegradable, recyclable and compostable is understandable. Cedar Grove is working with other large-scale composters and local solid waste officials to help food establishments understand the important differences in “green” products so that they can help educate consumers about the proper disposal of food service items and packaging.

“Cedar Grove and local solid waste departments can tell consumers whether an item is compostable,” Thoman said. “Unless consumers or businesses are absolutely certain that a food service or packaging item is compostable, it should not be put into yard waste bins or in commercial composting bins at work. They should remember that biodegradable does not mean the same thing as compostable.”

Cedar Grove Composting receives over a million pounds of organic waste daily from Seattle and surrounding areas. That material is processed, screened and aged, and then returned to local gardens, lawns and landscapes as Washington state-registered organic compost and soil amendments.

For more information on compostable materials and a list of what can and cannot be composted, visit Cedar Grove Composting’s Web site at ?

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