Here’s what you need to know before you buy compostable products, and especially before you dispose of them.
Compostable paper & plastic products are increasing in popularity as people become more concerned about waste. And this can be a great thing! Nobody wants to create more landfill waste—it doesn’t make economic or environmental sense. Compostable is an excellent, much preferable alternative to disposable.
But before you decide to use compostable food-service products—plates, cups, or forks—here’s something to keep in mind: there may be a better option. Consider this:
For more easy-to-understand guidelines for event organizers or business owners considering the purchase of food-related products, view the Purchasing Guidelines for Compostable Food-Related Products (PDF) produced by CSWD.
If you can answer “yes” to ALL of the following questions, then choosing compostable products may be a good decision for you.
If you answered “yes” to ALL of the above questions, then check out our Compostable Products Buying Guide for specific recommendations on compostable products and the companies that produce them. Or keep reading for general guidelines to determine what is acceptable in our composting system—and what is not.
There’s lots of “green-washing” out there, and many products are labeled in a way that makes them sound compostable when they really aren’t. Take our word for it—if a product is in the Compostable Products Buying Guide, it’s 100% compostable in our system.
To be accepted in our composting system, products must have been independently tested and proven to meet the following standards when disposed of in a commercial composting facility such as Green Mountain Compost:
[In 2014, we completed our own Compostable Cutlery Test with a variety of locally available “compostable” brands. Not all of them lived up to their hype. Click here to see the results.]
To help you find products that are acceptable, we worked with CSWD to create these Purchasing Guidelines for Compostable Food-Related Products. Please share them with your vendor or anyone responsible for purchasing food service products for your business, institution or event.
The chart below shows general product types and whether they are acceptable for composting at Green Mountain Compost.
GMC will accept any product that has been designated “Certified Compostable” by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI.)* To find out which specific products meet this criteria, as well as companies that produce them, please refer to the Biodegradable Products Institute’s (BPI) searchable Certified Compostable Products page.
Please be careful that the product you select is certified compostable. Some companies that make certified products also make other products that are not certified.
|Uncoated paper products||Napkins, uncoated paper plates (e.g. Chinet brand), paper towels (not used with cleaning chemicals)
|Uncoated paper-like fiber products (certified ONLY)||Clamshells, plates or bowls made from sugarcane (“bagasse”), untreated wood, leaves, or other plant pulps|
|PLA** or PLA-lined cups and bowls (certified ONLY)||Clear PLA cups for cold beverages, PLA-lined paper hot cups and bowls|
|PLA liner bags (certified ONLY)||Many brands available, including Bio Bags, NaturBag, BioTuf and others. Readily available online and at some local retailers (see list below)|
|Compostable utensils (certified ONLY)||Many brands available. Must be certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), or that have met the ASTM D6400 or D6868 testing standards, or be composed of 100% untreated/uncoated wood|
|Petroleum-based plastic of any kind||"Traditional" plastic items like plastic bags, utensils, drinking cups, clamshells, etc.|
|Any products that say “degradable” or any variation of that word, including “bio-degradable” and “oxo-degradable”||Several local businesses use these kinds of bags. If you see these words on a bag, it should go in the trash. "Green N Pack" brand bags also are NOT compostable.|
*The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a professional association that promotes the use, and recycling of biodegradable polymeric materials (via composting). The BPI will grant “certified compostable” status to materials and products that have been demonstrated (via scientifically proven techniques) to degrade completely in approved composting facilities. We’re grateful for the great strides that BPI has made in increasing consumer education and holding companies accountable for their labeling.
**PLA stands for polylactic acid, a polymer derived from renewable sources such as corn starch, cane sugar or tapioca.
View our Compostable Products Buying Guide for locally available options.
In addition to proof of certification, we require that all bioplastic products be clearly labeled with the word “compostable” or another label readily identifying their compostability so that we can sort them from otherwise identical non-compostable plastics.
Green Mountain Compost reserves the right to exclude any product that does not break down within 8 weeks of standard processing in our system, regardless of whether the product meets the above standards.