EPISODE 1: Once Upon a Time… A Compost Story: How We Got To Here

This post begins a multi-part series on our journey from certification to acceptance for our compostable food ware in the
Vancouver Lower Mainland of BC, Canada. See Episodes 
Episodes 23 and 4 for more!

BSIbio is a specialist in compostable food ware and packaging. We entered the industry ten years ago, pre-2010 Olympics, with the single minded intention to create foodware that would go back to the earth after it was used.

A few years in the industry and the cracks began to show around us – blended plastics marketed as compostable when they are not adding to the confusion between conventional and compostables (both within the industry and by the consumer), and most importantly – facilities not accepting certified compostable products. This is not what we envisioned!

THE QUESTION: What happens when you create a product designed to solve a problem, and you find out it’s only halfway to its potential due to issues outside your control?

Yes, BSIBio’s compostable products are bio-based to reduce reliance on ancient fossil fuels, a huge step in the right direction. But, we need a composter to make the connection for a circular economy.

Hot Cup Undergoing Composting

A semi-backyard composted hot cup circa 2009

We began with a survey of municipal composters in the Pacific Northwest. We asked them, “Do you accept our products? If not, why not?”, and came to some startling conclusions.

As of August 2013, only 53% of facilities in our target markets accepted all of our compostable food ware.

The reasons were many:

  • It’s confusing
  • The facility has no capacity to remove contamination
  • Too hard to tell the difference between compostables and non-compostables (blended products don’t help!)
  • Bio-plastics aren’t allowed in certified organic compost
  • The one that really struck us was: bio-plastics don’t compost

How could this be? Our compostable products are certified under the most reputable international lab standards; they meet the scientific definition for composting; and we have a handful of facilities that not only like our products, they encourage customers to use them to increase organics diversion.

Third Party Testing

Taking matters into our own hands, we gathered momentum behind a research pilot to address how we can close the loop. Starting in the winter of 2014, we partnered with the Foodware & Soiled Paper Working Group, convened under Metro Vancouver in preparation for their Organics Ban. We began working with the Metro Vancouver Research Collaborative, and hooked up with UBC Land and Food Systems. In mid-May we had our team together to apply for funding and the NSERC Engage grant was the perfect fit. By September 2014, we had the partnerships and tools to walk the talk in compostable food ware, beginning an exciting 10 month journey into the world of commercial composting.

Tune in next week for the second installment of this 5-post blog series into and beyond our research project!

 

BSI dug into the compost at regional facilities with the University of British Columbia to make sure our products return to the earth.

Why do you care? Compostable products become a part of our Canadian landscape through the soil. When these pass through your hands you want to be sure they really do what they say they do. At BSIbio it’s our duty to make responsible products, taking into account that our products will never disappear, and can only be converted into something else. Your interest and support of our mission helps make that happen!

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