Eco-Products announced a free new program to help foodservice operators keep non-compostable items out of their organics streams.

The program, called Controls Intended to Remove Contamination (CIRC), will verify that restaurants and other operators are taking important steps to prevent non-compostable materials from being sent to composting facilities. The program is free for foodservice operators and composters and is open to all.

While food scraps, yard trimmings and certified compostable packaging can be composted, anything else creates serious problems for composters. 

“Contamination from non-compostable products is the defining challenge for many composters today,” says Wendell Simonson, Director of Marketing at Eco-Products. “Unfortunately, most composters have an extremely limited ability to deal with contamination once it gets to their facilities. That’s why foodservice operators must put controls in place to prevent that contamination from ever getting to composters in the first place.” 

CIRC is designed to help foodservice operators take measures to do just that — and verify those efforts so composters can be more confident about accepting material from them. The program features scorecards that foodservice operators will use to show composters and haulers that the necessary controls are in place to generate contaminant-free organics streams. The scorecard is divided into four sections — Procurement, Operations, Communications and Hauler Engagement — that contain criteria and conditions that are either required or encouraged. 

The program will be “open sourced,” meaning that the scorecards and other supporting materials will be available to anyone interested in using them — not just customers and partners of Eco-Products — and the company will not be charging a fee to participate. 

Individual composting facilities would be able to determine their own “passing” scores, and which conditions are required vs. encouraged. Among the criteria that will be used: 

  • Is there an ordering guide in place for compostable products that has been approved by the composter? 
  • Is there an agreement in place with the distributor to stock all items on the ordering guide? 
  • Are employees actively engaged in the management of waste streams? 
  • Do guests receive clear instructions regarding how to discard compostable and non-compostable foodservice items? 
  • Is messaging provided in the venue and through labeling on compostable items? 
  • Is there an on-site sorting process in place to inspect all organics streams before they are picked up by the hauler? 

The new program was launched after a 2022 study looking at contamination in foodservice waste streams found that restaurants and other venues could divert more food scraps and other materials from landfills by adopting compostable packaging as part of an integrated approach to their operations. 

The CompostAble Chicago study examined four foodservice venues in the Chicago area — a full-service restaurant, a museum quick-serve café, a school cafeteria and a university quick-serve café — and collected data on operating conditions and the composition of their waste streams. 

The study found that venues using compostable cups, plates and utensils collected more food scraps under favorable operating conditions. Importantly, those food scraps could be relied upon to contain lower levels of contamination when key operating conditions were met. 

“Organics diversion at scale in the foodservice industry is impossible without composter willingness to accept and process post-consumer food scraps and certified packaging,” Simonson says. “An operator-driven systems approach to contamination mitigation is long overdue.” 

Eco-Products is rolling out the program through its nationwide team of waste diversion experts called “Product & Zero Waste Specialists.” 

Industry News, Sustainability