The Compostable Product Labeling Act frequently asked questions

Senate Bill 23-253 Frequently Asked Questions

What is the goal of this law?

  • The law’s intent is for certified compostable food service products to be clearly labeled and easily recognizable at the point of sale and point of use.
  • Additionally, this law aims to reduce non-compostable plastic products from being improperly diverted to compost operations which results in contaminating compost and creates challenges for compost facility operators and end markets. 
  • To achieve this, a compostable product under the new law must:
    • Display a logo that indicates the product is certified compostable by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards D6400 and D6868
    • Be labeled with the word “compostable” where possible. 
    • Use green colored labeling or striping or other easily recognizable green symbols, colors, tinting marks or design patterns.
    • Not display a chasing arrow resin identification code or recycling symbol of any form.

 What is the scope of the law?

The requirements of the law are specific and limited to “plastic products” and “food service products.” 

What does “certified compostable” mean under SB23-253?

  • “Certified compostable” means that a product has received certification by a recognized, independent, third-party verification body that the product is compostable. 
  • Products represented as compostable in Colorado must be certified compostable in accordance with ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868 regardless of what third party certifier it has been vetted through.
  • Products certified by BPI or Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) meet the requirements of ASTM D6400 and therefore, are accepted as certified compostable. 

How is “wood” defined in the law? Which products fall under the scope of “untreated wood” and are exempt from the new labeling requirements in SB23-253?

  • “Wood” means renewable wood or fiber-based substrate.
    • Including:    
      • Sugar cane/bagasse fiber materials.
      • Molded fiber.
      • Paper towels/napkins.
  • “Untreated wood”  means wood, including raw or kiln dried wood, that is unpainted and not treated with any chemicals intended to resist decomposition. This includes any chemical treatment for aesthetic purposes (i.e. bluing or dying) or additives (i.e. wax, clay) that do not impact the rate of decomposition. 
  • The requirements are specific and limited to “plastic products” and “food service products.” Therefore, any wood products that are not “food service products” are exempt.
  • Wood or fiber-based food service products, such as molded fiber, napkins and paper towels are exempt from the labeling criteria of 803, as long as they meet the “untreated wood” definition.

What is the timeline for compliance under SB23-253?

  • For compostable food service products that meet the certification criteria in the law:
    • July 1, 2024:
      • A compostable product must be distinguishable upon quick inspection in accordance with 25-17-803. 
    • January 1, 2024: 
      • A producer of a compostable product shall not market the product using chasing resin identification code or recycling symbol of any form.
  • For products that are not certified compostable under the law:
    • July 1, 2024:
      • A product accessory (i.e. lid, straw, label) that is not compostable should clearly differentiate itself from compostable packaging and describe the recyclability or the phrase “landfill only.”
    • January 1st, 2024:
      • A product that is not compostable should not be marketed or advertised using any words or images that could reasonably mislead consumers into believing the product is compostable or could break down in the same manner as a product that was certified compostable.
      • Examples of prohibited words: “Natural”, “biodegradable”, “degradable”, “decomposable”, “oxo-degradable”, “bioassimilable”, “omnidegradable” 

How should a producer whose plastic product is not certified compostable interpret the law?

Per 25-17-804 (2) A producer of a plastic product that is not certified compostable shall not market or advertise a product in the state using:

  • The words: “natural”, “biodegradable” “degradable”, “decompostable”, etc. 
  • Any labeling, images or words that imply the plastic product will eventually break down in the same manner as a certified compostable product.

Are BPI and CMA certified compostable products subject to the new labeling requirements of the law?

Yes, BPI and CMA certified products that are not defined as “untreated wood” under the Act, are subject to the new labeling requirements under 25-17-803.

What is a “small product”? What is the labeling criteria for a small product?

  • SB23-253 defines a “small product” as a product with a width of one-half inch or less of printable surface space, this includes straws and utensils. 
  • A small product that is certified compostable under 25-17-803 must comply with one of three requirements as follows:
    • Display a logo that indicates the product is certified compostable.. 
    • Be labeled with the word “compostable” where possible. 
    • Use green colored labeling or striping or other easily recognizable green symbols, colors, tinting marks or design patterns.

A producer uses “natural” to describe the food item (e.g. peanut butter) inside the food service product. Would SB23-253 prohibit them from doing so?

No, they would not be prohibited from using the word “natural” on their food service product to describe the food item, as long as it was clear that “natural” referred to the food item and not the food service product.

Is there a sell-through provision for existing inventory?

There is no sell-through provision in the SB23-253. However, the Act was signed in May of 2023, providing over a year to work through existing noncompliant products ahead of the new labeling criteria date of July 1, 2024 under section 803 (1)(b) of the Act.

What will enforcement look like? 

All complaints will be vetted through the Solid Waste Program complaint forum. Nonfrivolous and nontrivial complaints received through the complaint forum will be provided to the Attorney General’s office for further investigation and enforcement.

Does the liability for labeling fall onto the producer, the distributor or the customer putting the products out in circulation?

The liability falls to the producer as defined in 25-17-703 (30) C.R.S. 

How should producers label a certified compostable coffee cup lid?

Coffee cup lids are considered product accessories, but not small products and therefore, must meet all compostable labeling requirements in SB23-253.

How should producers label a certified compostable straw?

Certified compostable straws are “small products.” This means they must meet one of the three labeling requirements set forth for certified compostable products (E.g. of a compliant straw: entirely or partially green to be distinguishable as compostable).

Would all green plastic non compostable straws now be considered misleading/reportable since they could easily be mistaken for compostable straws?

Yes, non compostable green straws would be considered out of compliance. Anyone may submit a complaint of a noncompliant product to the department via the Composting labeling complaint form.

Can a product that is compostable have a chasing arrow resin identification code (RIC)? 

The Act states that a producer of a product that is compostable shall not market or advertise the product using a chasing arrow resin identification code or recycling symbol of any form.

While the triangular RIC does not fall out of the labeling requirements for compostable products, a RIC without a triangle or chasing arrows would be best to reduce consumer confusion between a compostable and a recyclable product. Additionally this labeling requirement is intended to allow products to be most easily  distinguishable at the point of sale, and in a public sorting area or processing facility.

If ASTM testing has passed, but third party certification has not been completed, how should this be communicated on packaging?

Certified compostable products must be in compliance with ASTM D6400 or D6868 and must display a certification logo as part of the SB23-253 labeling requirements. The act does not define "Certification logo" and therefore, a label that makes it easily and immediately distinguishable as certified compostable upon quick inspection would suffice (E.g. The label reads "ASTM D6400 certified”).

Can a producer send an example of a product to the department to determine compliance?

Producers should work with their attorneys to determine compliance with SB23-253. For all other questions, producers may contact the department at cdphe.hmrecycling@state.co.us.

Are green compostable stickers that include the word “compostable” compliant?

A green compostable sticker would be compliant and help a food service product meet the certified compostable labeling requirements, as long as the sticker is certified compostable.

Do molded fiber products need to have embossed certification logos or green coloring to be compliant?

Molded fiber food service products would be exempt from the requirements of SB23-253 as long as it meets the definition of “untreated wood.” 
If the molded fiber food service product fell out of the “untreated wood” definition, it would then need to meet the certified compostable labeling requirements of the law. 

My organization is an impacted stakeholder and would like more information on this Act in the form of a webinar. 

Please see a recording of a webinar. Contact cdphe.hmrecycling@state.co.us to inquire about hosting a webinar.

Does this act apply to e-commerce of compostable products shipped to addresses in Colorado as well, or is just for brick and mortar retail?

This act applies to both brick & mortar retail as well as e-commerce of compostable products.

Does CDPHE have rule-making authority to clarify the Act’s requirements?

No, CDPHE does not have rule-making authority, and therefore, must interpret the requirements of the statute directly as written. CDPHE also cannot give legal advice to regulated entities or the public. Producers should reach out to their attorneys for legal advice. If you have a question that cannot be answered by the FAQ’s above, please contact cdphe.hmrecycling@state.co.us.