Core Value: Replenish
CYCLES OF RENEWAL
In a circular economy, material cycles are closed loops. Because so much of what we make today is thrown away after a relatively short time in use, the materials we use must be readily renewable, non-toxic to the environment, with the next life planned and built into the design.
Many of today’s “disposable” goods are made from plastics that have been derived from oil and gas. Crude oil and gas, resources that take millions of years to replenish, are known toxins in the environment in any form. The process of drilling, pumping oil, and fracking natural gas are extremely toxic to surrounding areas and its inhabitants (see Cancer Alley). The refining and processing of oil and gas creates air, water and land pollution.
“Plastics and petrochemicals are increasingly important to the oil and gas industry. They’re expected to account for more than a third of growth in world oil demand by 2030, and half of all growth by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.”NPR, November 2019
For many decades, recycling has been (and still is) pitched as the answer to resulting wave of plastic pollution. We now know that most plastics are produced in ways that make it nearly impossible for them to be recycled. We also know that post-consumer recycled plastics suffer a marked reduction in quality, ensuring an ongoing demand for “virgin” or new plastic resin.
After decades of relying exclusively on recycling to reduce waste to landfill, the world has had to admit to itself that system is not sufficient, and in some cases has broken down completely.
“Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter.”National Geographic, “You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure, 2018
The EPA estimates that 40% of the waste we dump into U.S. landfills could instead be diverted to composting facilities. That is almost half of what we send to landfill annually! Fortunately, it has finally become clear that establishing a global composting infrastructure is central to waste management that makes sense.
THE BENEFITS OF COMPOST
- Diverting organic matter from landfill significantly reduces methane production at landfill sites.
- Spraying compost can replenish 100 years worth of topsoil in one year.
- Composted soil captures and holds on to carbon from the air. This is known as carbon sequestration.
CLOSING THE LOOP
For the reasons outlined above, composting is critical to driving down greenhouse gas emissions. Compostable packaging, especially when used in agricultural and food preparation environments, makes it possible to divert and process significantly more organic waste from landfill.
Compostable packaging manufacturers and businesses must submit their products to a number of third party labs and oversight organizations to ensure they are in fact compostable. Established composting operations in the U.S. then pre-screen acceptable compostable packaging materials, and work with closed systems like festivals and school campuses to ensure that ALL food packaging inside those systems is compostable.