Truth in Packaging
The year 2015 has begun inauspiciously, as the common theme seems to center on lying and cheating: The Super Bowl champion Patriots won their divisional championship with under-inflated, easier-to-catch footballs; last year’s Little League champions borrowed players from neighboring districts to beef up the team; and NBC News Anchor Brian Williams made up stories about his war coverage.
Americans may be used to organizations and individuals stretching the truth to get ahead. In fact, a favorite saying in sports is: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
But the reality is people get turned off by cheaters and liars, especially businesses that don’t tell the truth about their products and services. Take compostable plates and containers. A number of manufacturers claim their products are natural, biodegradable, compostable, etc.
Known as “green-washing,” these companies mislead consumers and damage compostable operations. Fortunately, there’s an independent organization that verifies compostable product claims through its certification program: Cedar Grove Compostable.
The Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for verifying claims that a product will break down in a timely manner in a composting facility, has been remiss in establishing a formal review process.
As a result Cedar Grove stepped in and developed its own certification system in 2000. As a commercial compost company located in the Seattle metropolitan area, Cedar Grove’s objective was to ensure the quality of its compost by reducing the contamination from non-compostable products at their two facilities.
The Cedar Grove certification program tests foodservice products and packaging, determining their ability to break down in a composting system. Any North American company can submit up to 10 compostable products with a fee of $1,500.
Over time, Cedar Grove has certified more than 800 products as compostable, ranging from dinnerware to cups, napkins and waste bags.
When Bridge-Gate formed in 2007, it researched the different options for producing compostable serving ware and containers to include palm fiber and vegetable starch. Bridge-Gate initially settled on bagasse (a sugarcane fiber), because its higher gram weight provided better performance.
Within a few years, Bridge-Gate discovered a better alternative, using discarded wheat stalks as the material in its compostable plates, bowls and containers. Bridge-Gate learned the wheat byproduct provided better strength and performance at a much lower gram weight. The key is Bridge-Gate manufactures its own products through a patented bio-pulping process, which uses much less energy.
Cedar Grove approved the Bridge-Gate products as the wheat-based materials broke down more rapidly than bagasse at their compost facilities.
When it comes to composting, look for the Cedar Grove logo on the products you use and buy. The packaging companies that are claiming compostable without the Cedar Grove certification should be discarded to the garbage dump like other cheaters.