Tag Archives: compostable plastics

Ithaca College bans disposable utensils from compost

Ithaca College bans disposable utensils from compost

By Faith Meckley — Staff Writer
Published: January 28, 2015

Ithaca College can no longer accept disposable forks, spoons and knives that are labeled as “compostable” into the compost collection bins, and all utensils must now be thrown into the trash.

Mark Darling, sustainability programs coordinator, said Cayuga Compost, the company that accepts and processes the college’s compostable waste, notified the college of the new ban and set a compliance date of Jan. 1.

The Ithacan reported April 9, 2014, that the utensils were not breaking down at Cayuga Compost, according to an interview with co-owner Mary Proctor. At the time, Proctor said Cayuga Compost had plans to test the utensils.

Bobby Seymour, compost operations and marketing manager at Cayuga Compost, said the ban at the operation currently encompasses all disposable plastics advertised to be compostable.

To address the problem, Cayuga Compost first confirmed that compost was being processed correctly at the facility, Seymour said, and then moved forward with obtaining samples from manufacturers and testing the cutlery.

“We’re putting them into our compost windows at different places, bringing them out at different dates and times, recording what the amount of degradation is, if any, and then putting them back in for well over the standard period,” he said.

The standard period Seymour refers to is 30–45 days, which he said is based on U.S. Composting Council definitions.

Seymour said the estimated cost of manually removing the cutlery contamination from Cayuga Compost’s windows was $21,000 for the year 2014.

“We came to the conclusion that unless and until manufacturers change or we can find truly compostable products that we had to make the decision to stop taking them,” Seymour said.

Both Darling and Seymour said this is an issue happening across the country, and Darling said he believes it is rooted in the lack of state legislation making a clear definition of “compostable.” Green Wave International Inc. manufactures the utensils used at retail locations on campus, like IC Square.

“They’re calling their product compostable because there isn’t a state law that says you can’t use the word compostable,” Darling said. “[Green Wave] misrepresented their product. A portion of their reason is it is compostable … and they’re saying that the whole product is therefore compostable, when in fact, it is not.”

John Calarese, executive director at Green Wave, said the product should break down in approximately 90 days. Green Wave’s website indicates that products will break down into finished compost in 120 days.

“Our product is probably the heaviest product out in the marketplace from all competitors involved,” Calarese said. “Our heavy, full-sized piece of cutlery will take more time to decompose because of the weight of the product, not the composition of the product.”

In response to Darling, Calarese said the product contains no plastic and is wholly compostable.

A study conducted in 2009 in Vermont by Green Mountain Compost tested nine brands of cutlery, eight of which were certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute. The noncertified product was from Green Wave, and it was the only product in the study that remained whole at the end of the testing.

Calarese said this test was old, and Green Wave has since earned BPI certification, which can be seen on the company’s website.

While Green Wave does have the BPI seal on its website, at the bottom of the product page in small print there is a specification that only their bagasse products, made from bamboo and sugar cane, are BPI certified. This does not include the cutlery.

Currently there are printed signs hung over waste receptacles reminding students and faculty to place the cutlery into the trash. Darling said his goal is to find a more permanent solution for the college by April 1, when event season on campus begins in full.

The ideal solution, he said, would be to offer reusable options to students.

“Whether it goes to the compost or to trash, you’re still throwing it away — that one piece that all that effort went through so you can use it once and throw it out,” Darling said.

For students who are motivated to find sustainable options, Darling suggested finding a personal reusable cutlery set to carry along. Such sets can be wooden, bamboo or metal. Offering personal cutlery sets for sale at the Bookstore, installing washing stations at places like IC Square for personal utensils and incentivizing students — similar to the discount received for using a mug instead of a paper cup for coffee — are all ideas Darling said he is considering with the help of students in the Resource and Environmental Management Program.

Junior Rebecca Newman, an Eco-Leader in REMP, said she thinks installing reusable utensils in retail locations will be cheaper for the college over time. She said properly marketing personal cutlery sets to students will be important.

“I think people need to think it’s cool to have this,” Newman said. “With the compostables, people feel slightly better when they use them … compost is great, but the even better alternative is to have reusables.”

Newman said educating students on the disposable cutlery ban and marketing reusable cutlery sets to students will be on REMP’s to-do list this semester.

Read original article here: http://theithacan.org/news/ithaca-college-bans-disposable-utensils-from-compost/

This is a good example of the need for more education in the area of sustainable plastics. It is important that products reflex the certifications that they get. Many times companies will get a product certified when the product that will go out into the market is different than what was submitted for certification. This is especially true in the compostable plastics products where the materials need to be rapidly broken down to meet the certification. This becomes a problem for the real world product because it means it does not have the physical properties needed to be effective.

The other side of this conversation is that many people inherently believe compost = good. For most of composting this would be an accurate belief as food and organic green and brown materials are broken down to create a rich soil. However, when using many compostable plastics (especially PLA) the end result is not nutrient rich soil and in fact what remains after a product meeting the ASTM D 6400 is of no value to the soil and can become toxic in high concentrations.

When it comes to the sustainability of our waste it will be required for all of us to increase our knowledge levels to understand the details of what materials are being used with packaging and what type of environment it will be disposed of in, and to make sure that the environmental claims of the performance of the product will in fact perform in the environment that the item will be disposed of in.

The truth about reusable shopping bags

Some bags are only beneficial after more than 100 uses

By Quentin Fottrell

Los Angeles is the latest American city to ban the use of single-use plastic grocery bags, but experts say their most common replacements—paper and reusable bags—come with environmental and financial costs of their own.

Indeed, some reusable bags need to be used over 100 times before they’re better for the environment than single-use plastic bags. Polyethylene bags need to be used four times, a polypropylene bag must be used at least 11 times, and a cotton bag must be used at least 131 times, according to a study by the U.K. Environment Agency .

Starting Jan. 1, the Los Angeles City Council prohibited the use of plastic bags, joining nearly 90 other cities around the country in banning what environmentalists say have been the scourge of oceans for decades. Consumers in L.A. will now have to pay 10 cents for a paper bag provided by the supermarket or bring their own reusable bag to the store. But the cost of paper and reusable bags goes beyond just the 10-cent fee. “If we are really going to change behavior we need to come up with some other way than relying on shoppers to buy paper bags or carry their own bags,” says Phil Lempert, CEO of grocery information site SupermarketGuru.com . In other words, find an alternative to both single-use “carryout” and reusable plastic, Lempert says.

The widespread use of single-use carryout plastic bags raises significant environmental concerns, according to a 2010 report by professional technical-services company Aecom Technology Corp ACM -2.03% . It cited the short and long term adverse effects to marine ecosystems, solid waste management, global resource consumption and litter. In most instances, a switch to reusable bags provides the greatest environmental benefits, the report found, “if used at least a minimum number of times.” Many major retailers sell reusable bags in biodegradable canvas, plastic or “bioplastics” manufactured from natural materials. But some of these materials “are very, very energy intensive material to manufacture,” says Stephen Joseph, counsel for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a San Francisco-based coalition of plastic bag manufacturers.

People may not want to carry food in the same bag for extended periods for fear of contamination, experts say, although cotton bags may be the most easily washed and reusable. At the end of their life, only 5% of reusable plastic bags are recycled in the U.S., according to a 2011 report by California State University, Chico, and Clemson University. That’s the same recycling rate for single-use plastic bags.

Another problem: Many reusable bags being sold at the country’s major retailers are imported. Wal-Mart WMT -0.67% sells reusable bags with slogans like “A little green goes a long way.” In fact, many have also come a long way—over 7,000 miles. Wal-Mart’s standard reusable bag (50 cents) is made in China. Whole Foods has a variety of 99-cent “ Better Bags ” that are made from 88% recycled materials, but they’re not exclusively made in the U.S., a spokesman says. (Whole Foods shoppers are offered a rebate of 10 cents for each reusable bag they use.) Home Depot HD -0.87% also touts a store-branded orange nylon tote (99 cents), which is made in China. And Trader Joe’s polypropylene reusable bags (99 cents) are made in Vietnam.

Paper bags are biodegradable, but some experts say cutting down trees is no answer either. Some 46 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in 2011—a recycling of almost 66%—and accounts for over half of all recyclables collected in the U.S. by weight, according to the government’s Environmental Protection Agency. That includes all paper, of course, and not just bags. “By volume, it’s still enormous,” says Joshua Martin, director of the Environmental Paper Network, a global coalition of over 100 nonprofit organizations. Still, Martin welcomes the move away from plastic bags in L.A. and elsewhere, and favors a surcharge for each paper bag to encourage more people to think twice—and then some—about recycling. “You won’t find a whale washed up on the beach with its belly full of paper,” he says, “so I support the ban.”

To read the original Market Watch article click here: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/are-reusable-bags-worse-for-environment-than-plastic-2014-01-09

When I ran across this article I knew that I needed post this as a blog. This is a fantastic article and the comments are very telling with the reality of the situation we face when it comes to solving global environmental problems. There really is no arguing the pros and cons of plastics in our lives. The introduction and development of plastics was and continues to be a significant innovation to the improvement to the quality of life and at the same time it also is a growing environmental problem.

This article and the comments are great examples and a sample of how our society is trying to address the environmental problem we have created with using plastics. The truth is that innovation got us into this mess and innovation will have to get us out of it. It is extremely frustrating to see society desperately trying to do something with most of what is trying to be done will take decades to get habits changed or make even a slight difference on a large scale. The truth is that what we are doing is barely making a dent in the problem we already have and is not even close to keeping up with global growth of plastic use.

It’s frustrating at the least to listen to the arguments about using reusable bags verse single use bags. Most of what is being done whether it is using reusable bags, recycling, trying to reduce plastic use, etc is trying to solve a huge problem using tiny approaches. Sure it feels good as an individual to use reusable bags or to choose to throw everything into the recycle bin, but these approaches will not solve our global plastic pollution issue. We must think big and bring big solutions to the discussion of how we are going to solve this issue, otherwise we are going to look back 10, 20 , 30+ years from now and see that the problem has only gotten worse.

ENSO Plastics has developed a renewable plastic resin which is made from agriculture waste, it is marine degradable and completely safe if consumed by humans or other animals. So why are we still dealing with figuring out if we should use reusable bags or if they should come from china or all the other little issues, when there are technologies that exist today that would make bags that would biodegrade (in landfill and compost), are marine degradable within a few weeks, would break down within months if littered (based on climate moisture) and if consumed by wildlife would do no harm and is digestible?

Using ENSO RENEW resin to manufacture bags would cost a fraction of what is being proposed for paper bags of ten cents. This is a no-brainer in my mind and is the passion behind ENSO Plastics to solve the global plastic pollution issue. This technology and others like it are available today and consumers should be demanding large scale solutions like these to address the large scale plastic pollution issue.

Looking Beyond the Borders for Plastic Pollution Solutions

Plastics rock!  In a brief moment, if you focus on the role of plastic in our lives, it’s incredible all the applications we use it to our benefit.  Unfortunately, the end-of-life for most plastic is hundreds of years away, if not longer, a fundamental problem.   Over the course of the last few years I’ve had the privilege of playing a role in the Sustainability efforts of numerous producers of plastic.   I’ve heard about their attempts at previous technologies, their struggles of processing and performance, the regulatory quagmire they face, what they’re trying to hang their hat on now and everything under the sun and including the sun.

During this time, I’ve also been privy to some remarkable advancement in technologies and I’m amazed at the innovations that are available today as well as what is on the horizon.  It’s that focus on what tomorrow brings that truly provides a synergistic sustainable solution for a company.  It’s about implementing a solution that understands that plastic, and the issue of plastic waste, is not an island unto itself.  We must look beyond the borders to see the true possibilities, the interaction of multiple elements and cooperative action.  It’s why ENSO applauds the efforts and recent announcement by NatureWorks, for recognizing the possibilities beyond its current technology.   The silver bullet may not exist today, but with concerted efforts, we can move closer and closer to the goal.  The value proposition of methane capturing is far beyond any of its counterparts and it is increasingly being recognized as a more logical and fundamentally sound platform to adopt.

Methane, despite the perceived negative connotations, is one of our most inexpensive and cleanest energy resources.  This naturally produced gas can be used either in combustion engines or for conversion to electricity.  To include the possibility of harnessing methane for plastic production would be a huge game changer.  It is why current technologies such as ENSO RESTORE®, which proves to accelerate the natural biodegradation process in landfill environments, are being sought after.  Many initiatives being touted today are simply incapable of proportionally meeting the increased production rate of plastic.  What may appear to be “green” in theory essentially remains inadequate at meeting the greater objective of a cleaner planet.  It is why ENSO RESTORE® provides a significantly more dynamic solution to stand behind when it comes to adopting technologies that support sustainability goals.  Beyond bans and regulations, the objective is to provide a clear end-of-life solution in any plastic application (PET, HDPE, LDPE, PE, PP, EVA, PS, nitrile, rubber or latex); otherwise, we’re merely offering lip service in addressing the plastic waste in our environment.

 

rubber gloves

Researchers Unveil New Solution for Rubber Waste

ENSO Plastics’ lead researcher will make a major announcement for latex and rubber waste at this year’s International Latex Conference.

Mesa, AZ — (SBWIRE) — 07/17/2013 — The increasing amount of landfilled rubber and latex waste is an imperative concern for government entities and environmentalists worldwide. Teresa Clark, researcher for ENSO Plastics will be presenting “Advancements in Rubber and Latex Disposal – Biodegradation and the Environment” at this year’s International Latex Conference, July 23-24 in Akron, Ohio.

Revealed at the conference will be the groundbreaking development, ENSO RESTORE™ RL; a revolutionary technology that accelerates the natural biodegradation of synthetic rubber in landfills, as well as an unexpected discovery about natural rubber that may change the entire rubber industry.

Biodegradable plastics have been the big hitter in the past 10 years, with various compostable plastics such as PLA, PHA, Starch, and ENSO RENEW™; as well as products like ENSO RESTORE™ that enhance the biodegradation of traditional plastics. However the rubber industry has produced little technological advancements regarding environmental remediation, until now.

The research break-through that lead to the development of ENSO RESTORE™ RL issues in a new age of rubber, one that focuses on the environmental disposal. ENSO RESTORE™ RL is a unique material that increases the biodegradation of synthetic rubber within natural microbial and municipal landfill environments. Independent laboratory testing shows nitrile treated with ENSO RESTORE™ RL biodegrading 16.9% in the first 20 days compared to Nitrile showing no biodegradation during the same time period. Similar accelerated biodegradation results are seen in polychloroprene, polyurethane and other synthetic materials when treated with ENSO RESTORE™ RL.

As a society it is crucial that we address the huge amount of rubber waste going into landfills. Plastics have traditionally received most of the attention regarding waste with programs such as recycling, biodegradable, compostable and renewable solutions being offered. Unfortunately rubber waste, although just as important, has not received the same attention.

ENSO Plastics™ is committed to addressing the environmental impact of rubber and plastic waste and continues to lead the market with products that solve plastic waste issues with products like ENSO RENEW: A compostable, marine degradable and renewable biopolymer; and ENSO RESTORE: A family of products that accelerate the biodegradation of polyester, polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC, rubber and other materials.

About ENSO Plastics™

ENSO Plastics, LLC is an environmental plastics solutions company with proprietary biodegradable and biobased solutions, bringing to market cost competitive cutting-edge solutions to meet the market demands of sustainability, home or industrial compostability, landfill biodegradability, marine degradability and recyclability.

ENSO Plastics’ mission is to solve the global plastics pollution issue by bringing the best technologies to market, finding solutions with the greatest and most productive impact for the plastics industry and providing answers that can be trusted to integrate seamlessly – a platform that companies can stand behind with confidence.

Learn more about ENSO Plastics technologies visit us at http://www.ensoplastics.com or call (866) 936-3676 or +00-1-602-639-4228.

http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/researchers-unveil-new-solution-for-rubber-waste-283962.htm

ENSO Plastics Announces Biodegradable Plastic Solutions for the Philippines

MAKATI, Philippines–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The grace period for Makati City Ordinance No. 2003-095 has ended. This ordinance bans the use, sale and distribution of plastics that are non-biodegradable. To help manufacturers comply with the city ordinance ENSO Plastics announces two new biodegradable technologies for the Philippines market – ENSO RENEW™ and ENSO RESTORE™.

ENSO RENEW™ is a unique Renewable Thermo Polymer (RTP) derived from the waste process of agriculture, with a carbon footprint 75% lower than polyethylene. It is a high heat renewable biopolymer that provides home and industrial compostability as well as being marine degradable. ENSO RENEW™ is designed to meet the needs of applications looking for renewable solutions to meet new legislative requirements utilizing fast growing plant based material and rapid biodegradation. Manufacturers are also able to blend ENSO RENEW™ with traditional plastics for partially renewable solutions that are durable.

ENSO RESTORE™ is the latest development of biodegradable additives offering superior improvements to biodegradable performance and process-ability/compatibility and eliminating the historical higher scrap rates of competing additives, creating a huge environmental and cost advantage. ENSO RESTORE™ is a leading edge technology that accelerates the natural biodegradation without any disruption to disposal method or performance. ENSO RESTORE™ biodegradable additives work with light weighted packaging, thin film applications, and heavier injection molded parts in all major resin types: PE, PP, PET, PS, Rubber, Nitrile, polyurethane and more.

ENSO Plastics solutions are quick to implement with minimal or no change in current manufacturing. It’s quick and easy to integrate biodegradable technologies that comply with the recently implemented laws without difficulty or expense.

About ENSO Plastics™

ENSO Plastics, LLC is an environmental plastics solutions company with proprietary biodegradable and biobased solutions, bringing to market cost competitive cutting-edge solutions to meet the market demands of sustainability, home or industrial compostability, landfill biodegradability, marine degradability and recyclability.

ENSO Plastics’ mission is to solve the global plastics pollution issue by bringing the best technologies to market, finding solutions with the greatest and most productive impact for the plastics industry and providing answers that can be trusted to integrate seamlessly – a platform that companies can stand behind with confidence.

If you are interested in learning more about ENSO Plastics technologies, please visit us at http://www.ensoplastics.com or call +00-1-602-639-4228.
Contacts

ENSO Plastics
Paul Wightman, +00-1-602-639-4228
http://www.ensoplastics.com

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130620006486/en

Important California Notice
California law prohibits the sale of plastic packaging and plastic products that are labeled with the terms ‘biodegradable,’ ‘degradable,’ or ‘decomposable,’ or any form of those terms, or that imply in any way that the item will break down, biodegrade or decompose in a landfill or other environment. These restrictions apply to all sales in or into the State of California, including such sales over the Internet.

Newly Developed Plastic Reduces Carbon Footprint 75%

Mesa, AZ — (SBWIRE) — 06/13/2013 — ENSO Plastics™ announces their latest product; demonstrating their continued commitment to innovation and the environment with the release of ENSO RENEW™ RTP. ENSO RENEW™ RTP is a revolutionary plastic that puts the environment first with a significant reduction in carbon footprint, rapid biodegradability and the utilization of agricultural waste rather than petroleum or fossil fuels.

ENSO RENEW™ RTP provides a huge reduction in overall carbon footprint. A product’s carbon footprint is a critical factor when determining the impact on the environment. ENSO RENEW™ RTP boasts a carbon footprint over 50% less than PLA (one of the most common bio-plastics) and over 75% lower than HDPE (the plastic used to make film, milk jugs and many other items). ENSO RENEW™ RTP is made from agricultural waste that is manufactured very close to the source keeping the carbon footprint minimal. While most companies work to reduce their carbon footprint by fractions of a percent, ENSO RENEW RTP opens a whole new realm of possibilities.

ENSO RENEW™ RTP offers a unique end-of-life advantage for disposal not requiring specialized industrial composting facilities to breakdown, as ENSO RENEW™ RTP biodegrades rapidly in most natural soil and marine environments. ENSO RENEW™ RTP passes the ASTM D6400 standard for industrial composting, as well as marine degradability and home composting in as little as 10 days. Additionally, ENSO RENEW™ RTP is natural, and if accidentally consumed by wildlife will not cause harm.

ENSO RENEW™ RTP can be used as a stand-alone resin or blended with polyethylene or polypropylene. ENSO RENEW™ RTP is made from agricultural waste allowing manufacturers to take advantage of “bio-preferred” programs whether used as a stand-alone or blended.

ENSO RENEW™ RTP resin blends well with many types of PE, as well as PP, and shows good versatility in many applications; such as films, blow molded parts, and heavier injection molded parts. ENSO is currently working with leading companies in agriculture, consumer goods and other high profile applications, who recognize the unique opportunity to use plastic that is sourced sustainably, used effectively, and disposed of in a way that adds value to the ecosystem.

Between the environmental damage caused by long lasting traditional plastics and the need for alternative solutions, ENSO RENEW™ RTP will change the face of the industry and the environment. Contact an ENSO Plastics Business Development Representative today to learn more about how your company and brand can now use plastics that are more environmentally responsible.

About ENSO Plastics™
ENSO Plastics™, LLC is an environmental plastics solutions company with proprietary biodegradable and biobased solutions, bringing to market cost competitive cutting-edge solutions to meet the market demands of sustainability, home or industrial compostability, landfill biodegradability, marine degradability and recyclability.

ENSO Plastics™ has a mission to solve the global plastics pollution issue by bringing the best technologies to market, finding solutions with the greatest and most productive impact for the plastics industry and providing answers that can be trusted to integrate seamlessly – a platform that companies can stand behind with confidence.

Learn more about ENSO™ technologies visit us at http://www.ensoplastics.com or call U.S. (866) 936-3676 , international 001 602 639-4228 .

Can I Claim Biodegradable or Compostable?

There has been a bit of lingering confusion by some regarding the recent updates to the FTC Green Guidelines about marketing products with the terms “biodegradable” and/or “compostable”.  We hope to clear up any remaining confusion that might be out there in this blog.

We feel that the recently updated FTC Green Guidelines have really cleared up the past confusing and often ambiguous guidelines regarding marketing claims of biodegradable and compostable.  The FTC in their updated green guidelines have provided clear explanations and examples of appropriate marketing claims that would eliminate confusion among “green” type of claims being made in the market today.  Claims such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ and even ‘recyclable’ have been addressed in the updated FTC Green Guidelines and should eliminate any and all confusion that lingered from earlier guidelines.

So can a company make the claim of “biodegradable?”

The answer is yes!  There are two ways to do so:

A company can claim biodegradable if that material biodegrades with a one year timeframe within the customary disposal environment.  The company making that claim should have reliable scientific data to back up the one year timeframe for biodegradation within the customary disposal environment.

Or, for products that are biodegradable but take longer than one year to biodegrade, (After all, even food waste takes longer than a year to biodegrade in a landfill environment) the claim must be fully qualified.

What does “fully qualified” mean?

It means that a company must include additional information along with the claim of biodegradable.  That additional information includes the environment and timeframe.

This approach also applies to claims of compostable.  Products that use the general claim of compostable must compost in a backyard compost environment and compost very rapidly.  For products that will not readily compost in typical backyard compost environments, the claims would need to be fully qualified to include the type of compost environment and if needed the timeframe.

There is a caveat to this, and that is that many compostable plastics require an Industrial or Commercial Compost Facility in order to properly compost.  These facilities are not readily available to most of the world and so the availability of placing the compostable product into the proper disposal environment should be included in with the marketing claims.

And what about the claim “recyclable”?

Most polymers are technically but unfortunately are not.  With recyclability claims be sure to use a qualified claim if less than 60% of consumers have access to facilities that recycle your product.

The general idea behind the updated FTC green Guidelines is to minimize or prevent confusion about environmental claims being made about a product and/or the products packaging.  ENSO fully supports this approach and we believe it is crucial that green marketing claims are as accurate and complete as possible so not to result in confusing or misleading claims.

If you would like additional information on this subject please feel free to contact us.

Biodegradable Plastic – Compostable Not So Fast Says Stanford Daily

There was a recent press release issued by Media Juice titled “Biodegradable Plastic – Compostable Not So Fast Says Stanford Daily.”  The press release reviews a study performed by students at Stanford University regarding compostable utensils and their performance in “real world” environments.

The study points out that what the company markets as a compostable PLA material and the “Compostable” certifications that organizations (such as BPI Biodegradable Products Institute) issue on the material is not necessary a reflection of what happens in real world environments.

This brings up a great point and discussion topic and one ENSO has pushed for the past five years and that is that we are mistaken in our approach to promoting, marketing or pushing materials that will go away in any real world environment in a specific timeframe.    Even the much touted and pushed material of PLA is not a rapidly compostable as is promoted in marketing materials.  Sure, we can create test environments which are highly controlled and manipulated that will maximize biodegradation and provide results that look and sound great, but the variety that nature brings in the real world can mean a huge difference in the amount of time needed for a product to biodegrade, from months to even years. This does not change the fact of whether a product is biodegradable, just simply that to dictate exactly when it will biodegrade is a bit misleading to the consumer.

So yes – labs can show specific time frames for biodegradation, but what happens when that same material ends up in real world environments?  9 times out of 10, it doesn’t perform as promised.  So, what does this mean?  How can a material tested and certified by industry organizations such as BPI not perform when introduced into real world natural environments?  After all legislators are passing laws based on such certifications.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/biodegradable-plastic-compostable-not-so-fast-says-stanford-daily-225526.htm

http://forkprintproject.wordpress.com/

http://www.news.pitt.edu/news/Landis_polymers_LCA

http://new.ensoplastics.com/theblog/?p=1143

 

ACC demands positive marketing towards plastic bags


Group alleges ACC influenced comments about plastics in Calif. curricula

PLASTICS NEWS REPORT
Posted August 22, 2011

WASHINGTON (Aug. 22, 2:35 p.m. ET) — An investigative reporting team alleges that the American Chemistry Council pressured educational officials in California to revise a section of an environmental curriculum to present positive information about plastic shopping bags.

Washington-based ACC says the allegation “distorts and misrepresents” what took place during a public comment period.

The California EPA also issued a statement, saying that all revisions to the Education and Environment Initiative curriculum were made for “accuracy and educational value” and “thoroughly vetted.”

California Watch, a reporting initiative of the Center for Investigative Reporting, claims that Gerald Lieberman, a private consultant hired by California school officials, added a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook called “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags,” with the title and some of the textbook language inserted almost verbatim from letters written by the chemistry council.

California Watch posted the report on its website on Aug. 19.

The group also alleges that Lieberman added a workbook section that asks students to list some advantages of plastic bag, and that the correct answer in the revised teachers’ edition is that “plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport and can be reused.”

The claim by California Watch “distorts and misrepresents public process and the role the ACC played in it,” said Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics. “When CalEPA developed its curricula, the agency … posted an invitation [for public comment] on draft versions of the curricula.”

“We submitted comments in response to the state’s public solicitation for input,” Russell said. “The purpose of our comments was to correct factual inaccuracies and to present a more complete view of plastic bags’ environmental attributes, including their benefits, which were absent from the draft. Our comments, and those of all other stakeholders, were submitted via email and through an online form on CalEPA’s website.”

Lieberman is director of the State Education and Environment Roundtable, a nonprofit group developed by 16 state departments of education to enhance environmental education in schools. He declined to comment on his role in editing the textbook, and referred Plastics News to CalEPA, which defended the EEI curriculum.

“We stand by the integrity of the EEI Curriculum and the open and transparent process in which it was created,” said Lindsey VanLaningham, director of communications for CalEPA. “The curriculum was thoroughly vetted by all appropriate state agencies and was ultimately approved (unanimously) by the California State Board of Education.”

“Throughout the development process, the state made revisions to the curriculum based on two primary factors: (1) accuracy; and (2) educational value,” said VanLaningham. “Teacher feedback supports our belief that the EEI engages students on issues of vital importance to them and their environment, including the role of plastic in our society.”

Regardless, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, author of the 2003 legislation that requires that environmental principles and concepts be taught in the state’s public schools, plans to write ask CalEPA officials to tweak the current text to remove language that portrays plastic bags in a favorable light.

The curriculum covers science, history, social studies and the arts, and weaves in environmental principles and concepts. It is currently being tested at 19 school districts that include 140 schools and more than 14,000 students. And an additional 400 school districts have signed up to use it, according to Cal-EPA.

In its letter to CalEPA dated Aug. 14, 2009, ACC said that it felt the lesson plan on Mass Production, Marketing and Consumption in the Roaring Twenties was “extensive in its inaccuracies and bias about plastic and plastic bags.

“The ACC takes exception to the overall tone, instructional approach and the lack of solutions offered — most especially, the lack of mention of the overall solution of plastic recycling,” wrote Alyson Thomas, a senior account executive with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, who submitted the letter on behalf of ACC.

“We recommend that the list of concerns related to plastic bags be balanced with a measured response regarding efforts … to promote the recycling of plastic bags,” ACC said.

Plastic bags are referred to as “litter” in the text, ACC said. “To be clear, plastic bags don’t start as litter. They can become litter through behavioral actions leading to inappropriate disposal.”

The new text incorporated that view, as it now says that plastic bags “can become litter,” instead of calling them litter as the original version.

According to California Watch, the first teachers’ edition also had been highly critical of plastic shopping bags, noting the long decomposition rate of the bags and their threat to marine life and ocean health.

That information remains in the text, but a section on the benefits of plastic bags was added, after ACC made its comments.

“To counteract what is perceived as an exclusively negative positioning of plastic bags issues, we recommend adding a section entitled “Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags,” ACC said in its letter.

It suggested that the text point out that plastic grocery bags require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper ones, that lightweight plastic bags save space and fuel in transport, and that paper bags are reusable, and also can be recycled and made into new plastic bags, and plastic lumber for decking, park benches and picnic tables.

“We recommend adding text referring to the second life of plastic products, and the increase in the recycling of plastic bags,” ACC said. “Recovered plastic bags and wraps can be recycled into many products, including backyard decking, fencing, railings, shopping carts and new bags.”

What percentage of methane is collected in landfills?

I recently came across an article by James Levis called Collecting landfill gas good step. This article is a reaction to a paper that Levis co-wrote with Dr. Morton Barlaz titled “Is biodegradability a Desirable Attribute for Discarded Slid Waste? Perspectives from a National Landfill Greenhouse Gas Inventory Model.” That very paper started the jumping off point for the sudden out spurt of biodegradable plastic methane emissions articles all over the web this summer.

Spinoff headlines ranging from  “Study: Biodegradable plastics can release methane” to the reckless “Biodegradable products are often worse for the planet” were at the forefront of attention.

I had reacted to such articles in a previous blog which you can read here but after reading Levis Collecting landfill gas good step article, I came across some statistics that I just had to share!

greenhouse gas emissions methane

Levis stated in the article “ The foundation of this research is a life-cycle accounting of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with discarding waste in both national-average and sate of the art landfills”    Now here is some interesting information,

An estimated..

35% of waste is discarded in state of the art landfills which collect generated methane and use it in beneficial ways

31% of waste is left in landfills without any gas collection occurring

34% of the waste is in landfills that collect and flare the gas

lanfill

The results of the research showed that there are significant benefits to collecting and beneficially using landfill gas. Levis addressed reactions to the research, one of the most common comments being “these materials are intended to be composted, therefore the results are irrelevant.” Levis reacted to the response by stating, “But these materials are generally not composted, and most areas of the country do not have the infrastructure for source-separated compostable collection and treatment of these emerging biodegradable materials. Therefore we need to understand the effect of their disposal in a landfill.”

Another common response to the research included that the conclusions were too broad, that they neglected emerging materials like bioplastics that do not appreciably degrade in landfills. Levis responded by stating that the argument seems misguided because these types of materials are not even technically biodegradable and the study’s only mention of bio-based, non biodegradable products was to say that it would lead to green house gas emissions in a landfill.  Levis closed the article by stressing the importance of analyzing the entire life cycle of a product to know if it is better to use a conventional or biodegradable material in the production, as well as environmental and economic factors, before making your final judgment.