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267 - Do composters really want compostable packaging?!? with Justen Garrity from Veteran Compost

The answer is...it's complicated!

Episode Summary:

In this engaging episode of Packaging Today, hosts Evelio Mattos, Adam Peek, and Cory Connors delve deep into the intricacies of composting with special guest, Justen Garrity of Veteran Compost. The discussion navigates the challenges and opportunities within the composting industry, particularly focusing on the handling of compostable packaging. Evelio, Adam, and Cory explore the realities faced by composting operators, shedding light on the essential, yet often overlooked, aspects of sustainable packaging.

Through an insightful conversation, Justen Garrity shares his experiences and thoughts on the current state of composting, the labeling of compostable products, and the potential impact of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) on the industry. Listeners will gain a comprehensive understanding of the operational challenges in composting, the role of labeling compliance, and the importance of both government and brand involvement in promoting sustainable practices.

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About the Guest(s):

Justen Garrity:
Justen Garrity is the founder of Veteran Compost, a composting company located in the DC and Baltimore metro areas. As a veteran himself, Justen primarily hires veterans and their families, focusing on sustainable waste management and innovative composting solutions. With over 14 years in the industry, Justen has been an advocate for improved composting practices and labeling laws to enhance both commercial and residential composting processes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Composting Challenges: The difficulties composters face include sorting out non-compostable items from compostable materials due to inadequate labeling and consumer confusion, leading to landfill diversions.

  • Importance of Labeling: Effective and conspicuous labeling is crucial for the proper handling of compostable products, moving towards a standard that can be easily identifiable by both consumers and processors.

  • Impact of EPR: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) could significantly improve the financial viability and efficiency of composting operations by ensuring proper compensation and accountability within the packaging lifecycle.

  • Technological Innovations: While devices like Lomi are interesting for residential composting, they mainly serve as dehydrators and don’t effectively break down compostable materials as standard commercial composting does.

  • Educational Internships: Internships at composting facilities provide valuable hands-on experience for packaging designers and engineers, offering insights into the practical challenges of sustainable packaging.

Notable Quotes:

  1. "The packaging company made some money, the paper distributor made some money, the brand made some money, and we didn’t make any money." - Justen Garrity

  2. "If it doesn't say certified compostable, you know, we’re going to divert to landfill." - Justen Garrity

  3. "I think government involvement in pushing for clear labeling standards can make it easier for consumers and composters alike." - Justen Garrity

  4. "We're trying to get people off polystyrene cups; I’m tired of seeing styrofoam cups." - Justen Garrity

  5. "Come spend 2 hours with us, it's eye-opening to see what's a problem in composting." - Justen Garrity

Resources:

Stay tuned for more impactful discussions on Packaging Today, where we bring you the latest in sustainable packaging and industry insights. Don't miss out on our next episode featuring an exciting guest who is driving innovation in the packaging world.

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