Tag Archives: Waste

Don’t Be An Environmental Honey Badger

Think for a moment that you’re at the drugstore picking up a few items. Some products you may be loyal to, others you may be trying for the first time. Would the packaging play a role in what you buy at the store? Would you consider buying something in a recyclable container before buying a product with packaging that will go into the garbage?

Maybe you don’t care where it ends up. Maybe you do. Did you know that even if you were to you choose the packaging that says it can be recycled, will most likely end up in a landfill anyway? Surprising, I know! Don’t feel bad, most people don’t know this.

In an effort to be “green” those consumers, conscious of the environment, tend to purchase items with recyclability. Even though you may choose a product based on the “green factor” of its packaging being recyclable, ninety-four percent of recyclable products will end up in a landfill.  Turns out your efforts to be “green” are mostly moot.

Recycling is a misnomer. I’m not suggesting that we stop putting items in our green recycling can on recycle day. Six percent of our recyclable items get recycled. I’m suggesting we take a closer look at where our products and its packaging are ending up.

What if you are the person who doesn’t care where the packaging goes? You throw it in the garbage and it magically disappears when that big truck stops in front of your house once a week and dumps all your problems.  Not your garbage anymore, but it’s still your problem.  How can it still be my problem you ask? Because you, along with me, along with billions of other people live on this earth. And what we do to our planet affects us all.

And for you do-gooders who buy “green” and recycle everything, nice effort! But, most recycling facilities are very picky about what they recycle. Do you know what happens to the material they don’t recycle? Yep, it ends up in a land fill.

Ultimately, a land fill seems to be the final resting place for most of our products’ packaging. Landfills that are quickly filling to capacity.  Landfills that are full of packaging that will sit under the dirt for hundreds of years. It won’t be our problem by then, but it’s a problem we’re causing for the future. It’s a good thing if you’re wondering if there are any solutions to this environmental issue.

Biodegradable plastic is the solution.  An additive added to the plastic manufacturing process that will allow the plastic to biodegrade when placed into a land fill. The plastic that is not recycled can now be discarded without worry that it will affect the environment.

Going “green”, as a consumer, is an end result not a purchasing result; unless what you’re purchasing will end “green”.  Don’t be an environmental honey badger. Care enough to know where your products and its packaging are ending up.

Compostable in Theory, But Not in Practice

A Response to Dinesh Thirupuvanam’s Article on Biodegradability Claims

By Robert Eisenbach, VP Marketing, Green Genius

Last week, Triple Pundit published a post entitled “California’s ‘Truthful Environmental Advertising in Plastics’ Bill Awaiting Action.” In it, author Dinesh Thirupuvanam addresses an issue we at Green Genius believe is a serious problem: confusion and misinformation about the terms “biodegradable” and “compostable.”

Rightly, Thirupuvanam points out that consumers often make assumptions about what those terms mean, and when a company capitalizes on that confusion, allowing consumers to think a product does one green thing when in fact it does another, less-green thing, that’s greenwashing.

Which is why we were surprised and disappointed when the author endorsed California Senate Bill 1454, which we opposed, and referred matter-of-factly to Green Genius as a greenwasher.

First, to the question of greenwashing. As a company, we pride ourselves on our transparency so we take accusations of greenwashing extremely seriously. In fact, one need only spend a few minutes on our websiteto know exactly what our products do, how they biodegrade, what testing methods we use, and who our third-party certifier is.  We also make it very clear in our FAQs that our products are not compostable and should be disposed of in a landfill (like all other trash bags).

Not compostable? Nope. Unlike so many “compostable” plastic products, ours do not make an end-of-life claim that we cannot support. We know that trash bags almost always end up in landfills so we’ve designed them to biodegrade under those conditions.

Meanwhile, corn plastic manufacturers are all too eager to tout their products’ compostability, despite the fact that these products are truly only hot compostable and most consumers do not have access to facilities where such composting is possible. Even when they do, those facilities almost never process corn plastic products in accordance with ASTM D6400, the standard referenced by companies to claim their products are “compostable.”

But back to CA Senate Bill 1454. As Thirupuvanam pointed out, we opposed this bill—that part is true. What’s not accurate is the other argument he makes—that SB 1454 “will eliminate (for Californians at least) today’s confusing distinction that biodegradable and compostable do not mean the same thing.” It will not.

What SB 1454 will actually do is make it illegal for products to claim any form of natural degradability unless they’re compostable per ASTM D6400, even if they do, in fact, biodegrade. Which is great if you’re a maker of corn-based plastic, but horrible for everyone else. It not only eliminates competition for corn-based plastic, but also eliminates products that would reduce the amount of plastic choking up our landfills.

Here’s what else is wrong with the bill:

  1. Compostability is not a logical standard to use since hot compost facilities that will actually accept “compostable” plastic remain rare in the state of California (see FindAComposter.com).
  2. Even Jepson Prairie, the operator that handles all of San Francisco’s curbside compost, only takes 60 – 90 days to fully process food waste. The compostable plastic standard that the corn plastic companies are using (D6400) allows 180 days. What does Jepson Prairie do to compostable plastic items that don’t biodegrade sufficiently in 90 days or less? They send it to a landfill!

In his post, Thirupuvanam claims that SB 1454 “has the support of the key players in the industry” and he’s right, if he means the corn industry. Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill (by way of its subsidiary NatureWorks) lobbied heavily for this bill. The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) did too, and why wouldn’t they? BPI was created by the person who developed corn-based plastic for Cargill (he also led the creation of ASTM D6400), and the organization is principally composed of corn-based compostable product manufacturers. (As an aside, if BPI is so concerned about the confusion between biodegradability and compostability, why don’t they change their name?)

Thus, far from actually clarifying the distinction between “biodegradability” and “compostability,” CA SB 1454 would simply let manufacturers of compostable corn plastic run the table, while stifling the development of technologies that can reduce the accumulation of plastic where regrettably most plastic actually goes: a landfill.

And so here’s a final thought on greenwashing. If the average Californian doesn’t have access to hot compost facilities that accept “compostable” plastic, are those products actually compostable? And if those products aren’t compostable in practice, but consumers are buying them because they claim to be, who then is greenwashing?

GONE TOMORROW: The Hidden Life of Garbage

heregoneThe book titled GONE TOMORROW The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers was a very informative read. This book is a follow up to the 2002 documentary, also titled Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. Heather is a journalist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York.


The United States is the world’s number one producer of garbage: we consume 30 percent of the planet’s resources and produce 30 percent of all its wastes, but we are just 4 percent of the global population. These are staggering numbers which I personally find incomprehensible. I’m guessing that this is one of the reasons why more people do not get involved in this issue. We have implemented over 5,000 recycling programs throughout the country which are more of a means to helping us feel better about the massive amounts of garbage being created. There is no real global plan for stewarding the earth, which is one reason we created the company ENSO Bottles, to address the plastic bottle pollution on the planet.


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RUBBISH! The Archaeology of Garbage, Book Review

rubbish1The book titled Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy was a very interesting read.  Created in 1973, the archaeology of garbage was a program primarily created as an exercise in archeology for students at the University of Arizona Tucson.  The most fascinating aspect of the book is the discoveries of what our garbage tells about us as a society.  It was interesting the amount of detailed behavior that can be discovered by going through trash.  For example, in times of product scarcity our garbage shows that we waste more of the scarce product. Another major fact Dr. Rathje’s team discovered is that our landfills are not filling up from disposable diapers which is taking up about 1% of a landfills mass.


There have been some in the PLA (corn plastics) industry who use quotes from Dr. Rathje’s book to support an argument that composting biodegradable plastics is better for the environment than landfilling them.  Their argument takes some of the data out on context by looking at the hundred year old “poor” environmental designs of landfills.  The printing of “RUBBISH!” was in 1991 with most data provided in the book ending in 1988.  Most of the data in the book is over 20 years old.  As with many things from our past we eventually discover better and more environmentally sound solutions.  Yes, it is absolutely true that traditional dry-tomb landfilling is not the best solution for dealing with our garbage.  As a society we have made significant improvements to the methods we use for disposing of garbage.  Since the writing of the book we have implemented hundreds of recycling programs as well as the EPA requiring methane from the anaerobic biodegradation process happening in landfills to be captured and burned or used to create clean energy.  The EPA in the last 5 years has also changed laws with recirculating leachate through a landfill so to accelerate biodegradation by up to 10x.


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