When most of us think about compost, we think about grass clippings, orange peels and egg shells in a pile in the backyard. But composting is big business, and someday soon, that compost you buy for your garden could include paper fiber from Georgia-Pacific’s Dixie® brand PerfecTouch® and other hot and cold cups. Until recently, most commercial composting facilities didn’t take used paperboard cups with a polyethylene (PE) coating because the coating wouldn’t break down during the composting process.

Advances in technology have enabled commercial composters to accept and process materials that they were previously unable to use. This has been an important breakthrough for Georgia-Pacific Professional’s food service business, which supplies cups, plates, napkins and other disposable products to quick-serve and full-service restaurants.

“Many of our food service products already contribute to sustainability in that they promote hygiene and source reduction,” says John Mulcahy, vice president – strategy and category effectiveness for Georgia-Pacific Professional’s Food Services Solutions group. “Nevertheless, we are seeing more and more municipalities considering restrictions on disposable food service items as they try to reduce solid waste.”

This led to a series of GP lab and field tests that showed PE-coated paper cups may be processed in commercial composting facilities that have final screening capability, where these facilities are available. “Being able to compost products like our PerfecTouch® hot cups, which are composed of about 80 percent wood fiber, diverts materials from landfills to a beneficial reuse and ultimately reduces costs for consumers, businesses and municipalities,” notes Mulcahy.