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Labeling FAQ

As the demand for compostable products and packaging increases, there have been calls from composters, lawmakers, and others for more stringent and specific labeling requirements on compostable products in an effort to reduce contamination downstream and increase accountability for producers. The state of Washington has passed legislation to this effect, and other states are likely to follow.

What is BPI's position on the labeling of compostable products and packaging?

The BPI License Agreement states that certified products must carry an approved version of the BPI logo, unless there are space constraints or technical limitations agreed upon with BPI ahead of time (Section V.b.).

Why do compostable products need to be clearly labeled?

Compostable products need to be clearly labeled for two main reasons - 1) People need to know what to do with them after use; and 2) Composters need to avoid contamination in their operations.

What is "contamination" and why is it such a big deal for composters?

For composters, contamination refers to anything in their piles of compost that isn't actually compostable. For composters accepting compostable products and packaging, there is concern that some of it won't actually be compostable, mainly because it can be difficult to tell the difference between the compostable and non-compostable versions. Contamination adds cost for composters, and hurts their ability to produce a high-quality finished product that they can sell.

What is in the legislation recently passed by the state of Washington?

Washington's governor recently passed SB 1569 forbidding terms like "degradable", and requiring that products claiming to be compostable meet the appropriate ASTM standard. The bill goes beyond other similar laws in California and Maryland with more prescriptive requirements on how to make sure products are "readily and easily identifiable", including using a third-party certification logo, use of distinctive color markings, and use of the word "compostable" on the product. It comes into effect July 1, 2020.

How do all of these pieces fit together?

Compostable products and packaging are a crucial lynchpin in the effort to divert the millions of tons of food scraps that go to landfills every year. But if composters don't have confidence in the compostability of products and packaging they won't accept them. And if users can't identify products as compostable, they likely won't put them in the right bin. Both of these scenarios hurt the broader effort to keep organics out of landfills, which is why BPI requires the use of its logo on products. 

What products are exempt from labeling due to space limitations or technical constraints?

No products are explicitly exempt. Companies must contact BPI to come to an agreement based on space limitations or technical capabilities. The updated logo should be easier to print / emboss in a small format. 

What is the process for updating a certification to include printing ink(s)?

Companies can submit an updated application for a "modified review" which is $500. They must document the percent of ink, provide an SDS for the ink(s), and do a metals test. If inks are used above .1%, a plant toxicity test will be required. More info on tests can be found in BPI's Certification Scheme.

When is the deadline for updating currently certified products to include the BPI Certification Mark?

BPI Members must make a good faith effort to bring their product artwork in line with Washington's new legislation, which is effective as of July 1, 2020. This includes submitting proof of use of the BPI Certification Mark on certified products and packaging if they have not done so already, and / or a plan and timeline for starting to use the BPI Certification Mark as required by the License Agreement. 

BPI is a science-driven organization that supports a shift to the circular economy by promoting the production, use, and appropriate end of lives for materials and products that are designed to fully biodegrade in specific biologically active environments.

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