Corporate Responsibility: What is Composting & Why Does it Matter?
As we celebrate Earth Day, eco-friendly terms and initiatives come to mind from going green, recycling, and sustainability to biodegradable, renewable energy, and low carbon footprint. There is another that has gained significant traction in the last decade, but one that’s a newer concept not as easily understood: composting/compostable.
People are practice composting at home, corporations are receiving positive recognition for their efforts, and even schools, foodservice and mobile meal programs are investing in compostable materials. So, what is composting, and why is it important for companies and the communities they serve?
The Basics - Compost is organic material that can be combined with soil to help plants grow, and plants—which, among other functions, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and serve as a primary food source—are vital to our ecosystem.
There are three basic composting ingredients: browns (dead leaves, branches, and twigs); greens (fruit scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and vegetable waste); and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food scraps and yard waste comprise over 30 percent of what we discard, and composting prevents this waste from winding up in landfills.
How It’s Done - Commercial composting, compared to home composting, operates on a much larger scale. For example, restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses that handle food, leverage commercial composters to collect waste materials and transport them to central composting facilities. There are three main commercial composting systems:
Windrows: waste is piled and organized into rows and aerated. This method is suitable for large yields created by communities, local municipalities, and high-volume food-processing organizations.
In-Vessel: waste is collected in a drum, silo, or concrete trench and mixed until fully composted.
Aerated Static Pile: in this faster method, waste is mixed in a large pile and combined with bulking agents (wood chips, shredded newspaper) so that air can stream through.
Why Compostable Matters
At its core, composting is healthy for the environment because it converts waste into products that enhance soils, grow new crops, and improves the quality of water. When you break these down, the benefits are consequential: reduction in chemical fertilizers; promotion of reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization; and more economical remediations for contaminated soils, water, and air.
Companies that use compostable packaging are actively contributing to a greener world, because these products are sustainable and can grow back naturally. Compostable products are also the gifts that keep on giving due to their versatility and renewability. For instance, compostable food trays can be used by school districts and then composted and repurposed for products that can be used in other industries.
Beyond good will, a dedication to environmental sustainability demonstrates an organization’s investment in the communities and the consumers and businesses it serves. The data bears this out: an international survey by Accenture found an overwhelming majority of consumers believe it’s important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled.
What Companies are Leading the Charge?
There are several companies with high environmental standards, but those specifically recognized for walking the composting walk, include:
Google - composting programs make up a significant portion of part of its zero waste initiative
Sierra Nevada - since 2010, the beer company has turned over 5,000 tons of organic waste into usable compost
New Belgium Brewing - another beer leader that’s moved away from landfills and filters organic material from its water treatment plant for compost
Unilever - the company announced that by 2025, 100% of its packaging will be recyclable, reusable, or compostable
“The Circle of Life'' strongly applies to composting. It’s a journey that begins with waste materials that are safely coaxed into purposeful products that when used, return to the earth and are renewed.
Oliver’s New 100% Compostable Trays
Oliver has created a line of 100% compostable food trays to help schools, foodservice programs and mobile meal programs reduce waste and stay ahead of new eco mandates. Our trays consist of renewable sugarcane and bamboo fibers (no tree fibers) and natural moisture barriers that ensure leak-proof consistency while maintaining hot/cold temperatures.