By Olivia Thomas
September 10, 2019

the essentials of compostable packaging | course

Compostable Packaging: Getting Up to Speed With Our Essentials of Sustainable Packaging Course

July 15, 2019

Compostable packaging is gaining steam. Though composting infrastructure is not yet widespread across the U.S., interest in this recovery pathway is growing rapidly. As more communities look to divert food scraps (currently at least 15% of the waste stream according to the EPA) out of the landfill, composting will be a big part of their materials management strategy. At the same time, cities across the U.S. are beginning to require compostable packaging for foodservice vendors, and retailers, quick service chains, and even airlines are jumping on board. 


It’s not just food service that’s dabbling in compostables. In response to recycling challenges, CPGs are also starting to include compostable packaging as part of their packaging sustainability goals. UnileverDanone, and PepsiCo have all included compostable packaging as a potential strategy for tackling currently unrecoverable packaging waste. Meanwhile, smaller food brands like Alter Eco chocolates, B.O.S.S snack bars, and Don Maslow coffee are experimenting with compostable wrappers.

So what do you need to know about compostable packaging to take advantage of this new business opportunity? In the SPC’s online learning course, The Essentials of Compostable Packaging, you’ll learn what’s key to consider in this burgeoning space: 

Composting Basics:

1. “Compostable” is more than just “biodegradable”

If you’ve used the terms “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “bio-based,” and “compostable” interchangeably, you’re not alone. There is widespread confusion among manufacturers, brands, and consumers about what these words mean. But getting it right is crucial — MarylandCalifornia, and Washington now regulate the use of these terms, and lawsuits have started to crack down on misleading or simply incorrect claims.  

In our course, you’ll get clear guidance on the difference between biodegradability and compostability, as well as best practices for compostable packaging design and labeling. 

2. Composters might not want your packaging — at least not yet

In many ways, the success of compostable packaging depends on composters. Composters want to take more material, but they also need to maintain profitable business models. As communities expand their organics recycling programs, it’s helpful to understand why these programs often start as food waste only, and the challenges cities and composters want to address before accepting packaging. 

With this course, you’ll get insight into the perspectives of compost manufacturers and learn about the benefits and challenges that compostable packaging can bring to a composting facility. And if you’re not familiar with the composting process, the Essentials of Compostable Packaging starts by getting you up to speed on the basics of composting. 

3. Backing up your packaging claims is crucial to success

With compostable packaging, your stakeholders want evidence that it truly breaks down in a composting facility. Composters are wary of being saddled with partly degraded bits of packaging, and cities don’t want to be complicit in greenwashing. Consumers are also getting savvy about packaging that’s missing credentials. You might be surprised by the skepticism towards products that are vaguely labeled.

Ensuring that your packaging is truly compostable starts with testing and certifying your products with one of the trusted certification programs design to verify claims for various materials. The Essentials of Compostable Packaging helps you start this journey by showing you everything you need to know to get started with compostable certification.

This course is part of the Essentials of Sustainable Packaging training program. Courses are available online on-demand with a one-year subscription, and special discounts are available for SPC members.


The Essentials of Compostable Packaging

Developed by The Sustainable Packaging Coalition®

Part of the full Essentials of Sustainable Packaging Training Program

The Essentials of Compostable Packaging is an immersive foundational course that explores the basics of composting, the current state of composting infrastructure, residential and commercial access, as well as best practices for compostable packaging design, labeling, testing, and certification. 

This course discusses key concepts like the difference between biodegradability and compostability, in addition to providing a nuanced analysis of compost manufacturers’ views on compostable packaging. 

With the numerous benefits and challenges that compostable packaging can bring to a composting facility, the course also provides critical insight into perspectives of compost manufacturers and how to best utilize lab testing, field testing, and certification programs to ensure that compostable products truly break down. 

Course curriculum: 

  • Basics of Composting – Understanding compostable materials 
  • Access & Infrastructure – On-the-ground look at composting programs
  • Design & Labeling – Strategies for communicating compostability
  • Testing & Certification – Lab and field testing for packaging 

Course length: 65 minutes

Learning Objectives: 

After taking this course, the Learner will be able to:

  1. Define the criteria for “compostable” packaging
  2. Recognize what kind of compostable packaging is preferred by composting facilities
  3. Identify which compostable packaging certifications require lab testing or field testing 

What learners are saying:

  • Absolutely a great learning tool.  
  • The course was extremely informational   
  • Excellent background and introduction to the different kinds of composting
  • Essentials of Compostable Packaging helped me understand why non-compostable materials are considered contaminants.  
  • I especially enjoyed the business profiles, such as Taco Time, where compostability is part of their strategic vision, and they have successfully impacted top-line sales. 

The Essentials of Compostable Packaging is included in the online subscription to The Essentials of Sustainable Packaging.

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