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Compostable Plastics Present a NOW solution to our Plastics Dilemma

Switching nonreusable, nonrecyclable serviceware (cups, utensils, straws, etc.) to compostables allows for a phaseout of common plastics.

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Certified compostable products are readily available, from cups to plates, and even utensils, straws, and similar products. Restaurants, institutions, other food service businesses, and households can easily use reusable, compostable, and/or recyclable dishes and serviceware. Bulk servings of condiments would eliminate plastic packaged condiments. Compost collection is growing. Lets work toward adapting our society to a two-material stream--compostable and recyclable! We're ready to start in our community of Brattleboro. We have a compost operation, curbside and commercial collection of compost and recyclables, and a law mandating diversion of food scraps from landfill disposal by 2020. We have compost/materials management experts in our local community. What we need is funding to make our new society grow into a model for the rest of the country!

Idea Title

Imaginable and Achievable Model for Phasing Out Nonrecyclable Plastic Serviceware and other Plastics through use of Compostable Products

Company / Organization Name

Northeast Recycling Council


Where are you / your team located?

Brattleboro, Vermont

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Utilizing already existing certified compostable products and elevating these products into common, everyday use is achievable in communities where food scrap compost collection and processing exists. What is needed is training and education about the available products, and working with businesses, institutions, and households to adopt these products, along with refillable condiments. Compost and recycling training will follow, moving our community to a two-stream materials management model.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Straws, lids, condiment packaging, common plastic serviceware that is not recyclable, so ends up in the landfill. Our targeted education campaign will focus on changing mindsets to adopt already existing compostable products that can be used in our daily lives, increasing recycling of recyclable plastics which still end up being tossed in the landfill, and switching to bulk refillables where compostable or recyclables are not available. Let's start the solution with products already available!

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Southern Vermont, but our model is readily applicable throughout Vermont due to requirements of Act 148. The model is certainly adoptable throughout the Northeast as compost collection continues to spread and be adopted by businesses and households.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Composting and anaerobic digestion of food scraps and compostable products is growing around the nation. However, resistance to the possibilities of a two-stream, zero waste model continues. This proposal presents a practical, scalable model which, through development of training materials, how to videos, use of social media, and more, can be promoted around the country. Creation of a model can overcome concerns to switching to compostable products and a two-stream zero waste management plan.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.
  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

I would start by building my team in Southern VT, including haulers, processors, business and government leaders, to formulate an education/training and outreach plan that fosters the switch to compostable products as a replacement for common plastic serviceware. This campaign would also promote and provide compost training. Cost effectiveness, barriers, solutions would be analyzed. Case studies, training guides, promotional examples would be developed for practical adoption by other communities

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Through my work experience over the past several years with businesses I have found that compostable plastics presents a real world "NOW" solution to the plastics problem. Starting with serviceware, which is already available in today's market and something everyone uses, and turning this into a value-added product (compost) offers a practical solution. In my professional circles I have also found that this has been proven in communities around the US which have embraced composting.

Tell us about your work experience

Athena Lee Bradley organizes and conducts trainings on food scrap and organics management, develops training resources, and provides technical assistance to communities, businesses, and institutions.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

The Northeast Recycling Council is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. Our Board Members are representatives from our 11 Northeast State Members.

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Hi Athena,

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