The Composting Consortium, an industry collaboration managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy, reveals groundbreaking findings from largest known field test in North America.

Roughly one-third of the world’s food is wasted each year and sent to landfill – a loss estimated at $230 billion.  To address this urgent climate and economic challenge, state and local policies requiring organics collection are being enacted to divert food scraps from landfill. This in turn has sparked the U.S. composting industry to increase their capacity to process food waste.  As compostable packaging gains traction and serves as a means to divert food scraps from landfill, roughly 70% of food waste composters now accept some forms of this packaging.  Yet limited public information is available on how well certified, food-contact compostable packaging successfully breaks down in real-world composting facilities — or on the composting conditions that best support disintegration.

The Composting Consortium tackled this data gap with a groundbreaking study, analysing the disintegration of over 23,000 units of compostable packaging in an 18-month study.  Their newly published report replaces anecdotes with insights, sharing data on the realities of compostable packaging disintegration and identifying the optimal composting conditions that support it.

The study found that ‘overall, compostable packaging breaks down successfully at composting facilities that meet reasonable operational parameters (e.g., compost pile temperatures, moisture, oxygen, pH, etc., defined in The Composting Handbook).  While the Consortium’s study did not assess disintegration with the intention to “pass” or “fail” any specific compostable packaging or product, notably, the average compostable plastic and fiber packaging in-field performance in this study met disintegration thresholds used by industry groups’.   A description of those thresholds is in their report launch webpage and that page includes a link for downloading their report Breaking it Down – The Realities of Compostable Packaging Disintegration in Composting Systems.



The Composting Consortium, in collaboration with its brand and industry partners, the US Composting Council, the Compost Research and Education Foundation and other groups, will leverage these findings to help inform policy making around compostable packaging, update best management practices for composting facilities and shape a field test standard for evaluating compostable packaging disintegration at composting facilities.  Data from this study will be donated to the Compostable Field Testing Program (CFTP), which will later launch an open-source database on the disintegration of compostable packaging.  Additionally, ASTM International is currently developing an in-field test method for assessing disintegration of compostable items at composting facilities, and the data from this study will be used to inform the draft field testing method.  As the Consortium moves into its next phase of work, the results of this study will shape its engagement and education efforts with composters, municipalities, regulators, brands and packaging manufacturers.



Set up in 2023, the Compostable by Design Platform (CbDP) is a cross-value-chain platform for collaboration and innovation in compostable materials, technologies and processes, aiming to ensure compostable materials* are recycled at scale in Europe.

The Consortium’s study (above) closely aligns with the CbDP’s live WorkStream 1 to ‘create a harmonised test method to evaluate compostability and, in particular, disintegration of compostable materials* via existing technologies in Europe’.  The relevant working group in WS1 will consider the study and its findings during its development of the harmonised test method.  The CbDP and Closed Loop Partners (who are managing the Composting Consortium) are in dialogue about potential to collaborate and  exchange data.

* This means used compostable products and could include scraps from their manufacture.