For myself, the good life is finding success without creating collateral damage. I define success as the accomplishment of an aim, purpose, or prosperity. Defining success in this way allows me to focus on accomplishment, not money. Defining collateral damage on the other hand, is more complicated. At BSIbio, I work to avoid damage on unintended targets.
BSIbio sells single-use packaging. Our industry has a terrible reputation for waste and unintended consequences. From plastics in the ocean, to inefficient recycling systems, I believe in finding a way to package products with less collateral damage. In 2015, 351,000 tonnes of waste went into Vancouver trash cans, sending a heap of garbage to landfill. BSIbio aims to divert some waste by turning compostable packaging into fuel for our future.
Unlike conventional petroleum-based packaging, certified compostable packaging can move products through the bio-economy; from plants, to products, to soil, and back to plants. This type of packaging successfully breaks down in composting facilities, without harming the quality of the compost. Our planet is not disposable and at BSIbio we know that disposable products shouldn’t last forever™.
The City of Vancouver recently reported that every week, 2.6 million paper coffee cups are thrown out. When I forget my re-usable mug (yes, we all forget sometimes) I’m thrilled if the coffee shop offers me a certified compostable cup. I get my morning coffee and still feel good. I know my cup can be composted, without leaching potential toxins, when I put it into a compost bin. Success! This is my good life. Imagine if we could all feel this way! What would it take?
There are a surprising number of compostable packaging options on the market, yet not every company provides consumers with a certified compostable packaging option. Some companies see it as too expensive; others don’t trust the materials. The biggest reason I see for companies avoiding compostable packaging is the lack of composting infrastructure willing and able to process packaging. Companies are reluctant to buy materials if they can’t guarantee they will end up as compost, and compost facilities don’t want to spend money to process materials that few people are using. Facilities are also averse to conventional or greenwashed plastics being mistakenly added to their material supply.
It feels like a chicken and egg scenario, but ironically this conundrum has a circular solution.
- First, third-party certification for compostable packaging is essential. Companies must ensure high standards for their materials. Greenwashers and short-cutters that provide “mostly compostable” products need to be given no room to profit.
- Second, companies and consumers need to be educated. The public needs to know that if it’s called compostable, it’s certified. If it’s not, it should never touch the inside of a green bin.
- Third, policy makers must support science-based standards that encourage system innovation. Laws based on the status quo will support the status quo. We need to do better than that.
Most importantly our choices matter! Consumers need be vocal about their packaging choices to reduce the use of packaging. A new system can be built that takes us into a new economy where reducing and reusing has priority over disposables. As we do this, we need to be ready to address a new set of unintended consequences so that we can feel good about the future.
Join me at SB’18 Vancouver, June 4-7, 2018 in the “Pressure Points for Sustainable Packaging” panel discussion on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 to learn my perspective on the brands’ role in sustainability integration; how to make packaging important to a brand; reusability initiatives and the role that compostable packaging can play. See you in Vancouver!
By Susanna Carson, CEO,
BSI Biodegradable Solutions
May 18, 2018