Just how CompostAble is Chicago?

It’s a first-of-its-kind partnership that evaluates the effectiveness of waste diversion at foodservice venues. The study’s framework provides a replicable methodology to further the research on compostable packaging and food scrap capture.

The research objectives for this study were two-fold. The first was to evaluate the correlation between using compostable foodservice packaging (implemented under certain operating conditions that have been identified to be success factors) and increased capture of front-of-house (FOH) food scraps. The second was to evaluate how these operating conditions result in minimized contamination.

The study looked at four foodservice venues in the Chicago area collecting data on operating conditions and waste streams. This included a full-service restaurant, a museum quick-serve café, a school cafeteria and a university quick-serve café.

Each of these venues were given ratings based on the likely success factors, including the supply of certified compostable packaging, the level of knowledge and engagement by staff, presence of instructional materials (e.g., messaging, labels, signage), and levels of turnover for both patrons and staff.

We were encouraged to see the results were very positive. Findings suggest venues that adopt compostable foodservice packaging should be expected to collect more food scraps in FOH compost streams. In addition, contamination levels were also seen to trend lower with stronger adoption of compostable items.

Stay tuned because this is only the beginning. As additional data is gathered, we’ll be able to better correlate how the right operating conditions, collaboration between operators and composters, and packaging selection will result in more food and packaging composted via clean FOH composting streams.

We’re actively seeking partners to join our next phase of research to gather data from various venues using few or no compostable foodservice items, as well as venues with new programs that are going to launch. Interested? Contact FPI at recyclefsp@fpi.org for more information.

You can download the full CompostAble Chicago report and accompanying methodology guide on FPI’s foodservice packaging recovery website.

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