Tag Archives: compostable products

Consumers confused by ‘bio-based’ & ‘renewable’

Very recently there was an article posted on www.PlasticsNews.com titled  Expert: Consumers confused by terms like ‘bio-based’ and ‘renewable’ . On behalf of ENSO our president Danny Clark would like to give a response to the article.


Compostable or Biodegradable?

Mr. Mojo addresses some very crucial points for companies labeling their product or packaging as compostable or biodegradable .Technology companies which provide compostable or biodegradable solutions, brand owners, manufactures, and industry organizations should make every effort to better clarify claims being made.  One major point that Mr. Mojo did not address is that these businesses and industry organizations should be providing to the public any test data supporting such claims.

The topic of greenwashing is currently a significant issue for all industries and companies trying to “go green” or provide some kind of improvement to their products and packaging.  Unfortunately we do not have clear cut protocols or processes for this.  Most of us are working towards new standards, processes and protocols that will better clarify what certain claims mean.

It is important to note for the readers that Mr. Mojo, is the Executive Director of BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute), a non-profit industry organization for compostable plastics, which certifies many products labeled compostable and as passing the ASTM D6400.  The ASTM D6400 is a pass/fail testing protocol specifically designed to validate that such materials will appropriately compost in an industrial composting environment.  The ASTM D 6400 is designed to ensure that the compostable plastics entering into industrial composting facility will not negatively impact the business aspect of that facility; breaks down within 180 days, no toxic residue, etc.

The Great Debate

There is currently a great debate about claims of compostable and biodegradable plastics, many were addressed by Mr. Mojo in the article.  One that didn’t get touched on is the customary disposal methods (or end-of-life options) of products.  Mr. Mojo may argue that compostable plastics are “more greener” or “better” for the environment but if that product is labeled as compostable but the consumer has no way to dispose of it in an industrial composting facility, or worst yet, the composting facilities won’t accept it due to contamination or wanting to keep its organic certification, what then happens to the benefit of that “compostable” material?  The issue of customary disposal methods is currently a big area of greenwashing in the market today.

Another example is found in the Aug, 2010 issue of Biocycle Magazine where a published study initiated by the Environmental Services Department and performed at the Miramar Greenery Composting Facility evaluated 105 different compostable products.  The majority of the products selected met ASTM standards (either ASTM D6400 or D6868) and many had Mr. Mojo’s industry’s organization (BPI) certification.  All of the products tested were purchased in the market.  To read the full article click:  http://ensoplastics.com/download/CompostableReport.pdf

More than half of the 105 products did not biodegrade greater then 25 percent.  Quote: “None of the compostable cutlery showed any real sign of degradation”.  The test concluded that there was no conslusive evidence from this study to suggest that all certified products will fully degrade.  In fact, 15 items that were both ASTM and BPI certified (Mr. Mojo’s industry organization) showed almost no effects of biodegradation at all”.  The result of this study led to a decision to hold off accepting any type of compostable products.

My question would be how could products that were certified as compostable by Mr. Mojo and BPI, not actually biodegrade or compost when tested in a real world environment?

Shouldn’t test results be public?

This leads me to my original point of companies providing test data to the public.  Currently, both the FTC and CA Legislation requires companies making claims such as compostable or biodegradable to provide data within 90 days.  I personally have been asking for such data for over two years now without seeing a single test report from Mr. Mojo (BPI) or the companies claiming compostability.  What I do experience, is the companies selling these BPI certified products directly to Mr. Mojo and BPI for their test data, however BPI continually informing me that the data is confidential.

To date, I have not seen an ASTM D6400 test result from BPI on any product they have certified as compostable, and given the results of the ESD study it brings up a number of questions.  The top question being, how much is Mr. Mojo contributing to the greenwashing issue we have in the market?  ENSO Bottles, provides our test data right on our website for the whole world to see – we do not hide our data and we welcome anyone to test our products, as BPI has done and validated that bottles with the ENSO biodegradable blend do actually biodegrade (as per your NSF report) .

Our industries need to provide more accurate information and education to the public.  We don’t have to agree on approach or technologies but we must provide accurate information and education.  Consumers, businesses and legislators need to be properly educated and then given correct information.  This also includes the work many of us in this group participate in regarding ASTM standards.


Danny Clark


ENSO Plastics

Labeling is a part of Education



With all of the amazing efforts to create products that push toward a more green disposal process consumers are being left holding the product and feeling a little unsure  just how to dispose of it. This is due to a lack of understanding terminology and a lack of           clear labeling on the products. The first product that comes to mind when I think of this topic is Sun Chips. According to the Sun Chips website they have the first 100% compostable chip bag. There website includes a section called “Composting 101” that explains the process of disposal that can be found here Compostable Packaging 101 – Sun Chips

This is great but what do the actual bags tell you to do? On the back of the Sun Chips bag it states that in about 13 weeks there will be a “breakdown into compost in a hot, active home or industrial compost pile”  it then states “Don’t compost yet? Learn more about our bag, what it’s made of and how to compost effectively at www.SunChips.com”  The bag is vague and pushes consumers to visit their website to actually learn how to dispose of it. There’s nothing wrong with this but if you are driving in your car on a road trip you may find it tempting to just chunk the bag in the garbage rather than holding on to it until you get home so you can visit the website and learn how to compost it. If the labeling on the back of the bag just gave the instructions I think consumers would see that the whole process is so simple.

By making consumers go visit your website it seems like there is too much information to include on the bag and that can seem daunting to a consumer. We live in a world where people want instant information at their fingertips. Why not just include the instructions on the labeling of the bag?  This blog is not picking on Sun Chips but simply just recognizing that if companies were to label products more clearly we as consumers would know just how to dispose of the products instead of just giving up because we do not understand.


Here are some key terms you should know to help you better understand all those labels out there.


Industrial composting refers to large scale composting systems that are being used more commonly as an alternative to landfills. Here is a short video that will show you an example industrial composting. More info here

Home composting refers to a process that can be done in most backyards in a homemade or manufactured compost bin or even an open pile. The bins should include 4 ingredients: nitrogen, carbon, water and air.  For more details on home composting visit this site More info here

Biodegradation refers to when plastic or any other material degrades over a period of time.  Biodegradation can occur in either aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen) environments.

ENSO plastics do not begin to biodegrade until the plastic is placed into a highly microbial environment i.e. landfill.  Once placed in a microbial environment the ENSO additive has a microbial attractant to help facilitate microbial colonization. Once microbes have colonized on the plastic they digest the additive which causes the production of specific enzymes within the microbes. These enzymes are the key to plastic biodegradation. The microbes break down the resulting material through atomic reorganization to use some of the atoms as energy and leaves behind either methane (anaerobic) or CO2 (aerobic) and inert humus.  Having the plastic biodegrade from microbial digestion is the natural process of everything and does not leave behind any polymer residue or toxic materials.

Degradation can be initiated by oxygen, ultra violet light or heat.  In many cases these products begin to degrade the moment they are manufactured which leads to a shortened useful life. When something is degradable it means the plastic is only broken down or fragments into smaller and smaller pieces and will never completely disappear.