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With SB 1383 as a driving force to divert more organics from landfills, the question of the role of packaging in the compost stream to minimize contamination while maximizing diversion is a challenging issue. Packaging includes non-compostables, compostable fiber products, compostable plastics and PFAS coated materials. The focus often leads back to compostable plastics. In this session the emphasis will be on all compostable wares from different perspectives. Three panelists will do a short 5 minute presentation followed by a moderated discussion which includes questions from the audience to create for a lively exploration of packaging in the organics stream: a blessing or a curse?
Will Bakx, co-owner of Sonoma Compost Co., started in 1985 processing agricultural materials. In 1993 he started the Sonoma county-wide yard debris composting program having diverted over 1,800,000 tons of organics towards soil amendments. He is currently working as a consultant and is co-owner of Renewable Sonoma.
Will earned a BA in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University and a MS in Soil Science from U.C. Berkeley. He is the co-founder and board member of the California Organic Recycling Council (CORC) and co-founder and ex-officio of the California Compost Coalition (CCC)
In 2008, at the US Compost Council Conference, I circulated a document highlighting the problems with compostable plastics. Twelve years later we have made remarkable little progress in addressing the issues. Wheras in 2008 the compostable plastics industry told the organics recyclers that the train had left the station and that we better adjust to these products, today we see strong signals that the train may have failed to get to its destination, with good reason.
The products are still not identifiable, may not decompose in an appropriate time frame, are not allowed under the National Organics Program and do not add value to the compost.
Will we get additional diversion if we allow food scraps to be collected in bags? Can we maximize diversion and keep our feedstocks clean? The challenge lays at our feet right now and we have fertile ground to explore the most suitable approaches. Let’s get to the root of it all.
We'll explore future steps needed for a regenerative packaging future.
Leslie Lukacs is the Executive Director of Zero Waste Sonoma formally known as the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. Leslie has worked over 20 years in solid waste and resource management industry and, prior, was the Director of Zero Waste at SCS Engineers for 13 years. Leslie serves on the board of directors of NRC and the Zero Waste International Alliance and is an advisor to Zero Waste USA and CRRA. She is the founder of stakeholder groups including the (GIVE) Council, Compost Coalition of Sonoma County, Sonoma County Zero Waste Task Force, and the Zero Waste North Bay Symposium.
Before signing an organics processing contract, and before design and construction of the facility itself, Zero Waste Sonoma (ZWS) staff evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of accepting compostable products as feedstock. The process took over a year as we met and spoke with various stakeholders locally in California and elsewhere around the country, including business end users, composters, solid waste consultants, local government agencies, haulers, as well as a compostable products manufacturer and compostable resin manufacturer. All the information collected eventually helped to inform ZWS's board decision to hold off on accepting products containing any compostable plastics. Instead, the board directed us to continue negotiations with our organics processor, asking them to design flexibility into the facility so that compostable plastic products can be accepted in the future if need be. In the meantime, ZWS is pushing for better labeling legislation for compostable and petroleum-based plastics. This presentation will share research on the topic and review the benefits and challenges of compostable products in organics processing systems.
Christine Wolfe is Government Relations Manager for Recology. She oversees regulatory and legislative advocacy for the company, including ongoing efforts to divert organics from landfills, stop plastic pollution, and build domestic recycling infrastructure. Christine joined Recology in 2017 and previously worked in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for a variety of public and private clients. Christine serves as a Director of CPSC and SWANA as well as the Young Professional Representative for SWANA’s California and Pacific Basin members.
I will focus presentation on current market pressures the industry faces with regards to the acceptance of "compostable" plastic materials into local collection programs. I can identify operational challenges with the processing of these materials, the risks both potential and real associated with the issue; and finally legislative/regulatory efforts that can mitigate some of the identified risks.