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National Restaurant Association - BPI certification key to packaging integrity

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BPI certification key to packaging integrity


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Using materials certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, or BPI, offers restaurateurs the option of participating in organics collections for composting.

BPI not only has worked with government agencies, but also academics and plastics companies to determine what can validly be called compostable. Suppliers that can prove their disposables break down completely in composting facilities, using the scientific testing methods and benchmarks set by BPI, are then certified as compostable. And once they are certified, manufacturers can affix the BPI logo to their products, thus designating that certification.

"Five percent of ... trash is likely to be plastics," said David S. Brooks, certification manager for the New York-based nonprofit that defines what can validly be called compostable. "If [the materials are] nonbiodegradable, they're holding back a restaurant from composting, a very viable solution" to skyrocketing garbage-disposal fees and the depletion of landfill space.

A composting facility won't accept waste that includes nondegradable plastics, Brooks said, and plucking those materials out of the trash for recycling isn't always feasible because the clamshells or coated paper could be contaminated with food or even wetness.

But if the whole batch can be composted, he said, "then you're no longer holding that waste captive." The material can decompose in a commercial composting facility into a rich soil amendment.

The BPI label is "a response to the problems people have in differentiating between something that people say is biodegradable, and what is actually biodegradable," Brooks said. Otherwise, he warned, you're dependent on the word of a supplier who might have a more lenient definition of the term.

A BPI-certified product might cost more because of its components, Brooks acknowledged, "but you have to weigh that against what you're saving in your garbage fees, and what it says about you to your customers." Even if the products leave the premises with a takeout or drive-thru order, he added, "the restaurants have set an example, and they enjoy a green halo for it."

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