ZERO WASTE TERMS, CERTS. & PRODUCTS

ZERO WASTE TERMS / CERTIFICATIONS / PRODUCTS

 

DEFINITIONS:

Bio-based: There is a common misconception that the terms biobased and biodegradable are interchangeable. Not all biobased plastics will biodegrade. Many biobased products are designed to behave like traditional petroleum-based plastic, and remain structurally intact for hundreds of years.

Biodegradable: The degradation of material from naturally occurring microorganisms over a period of time. (def. ASTM D6400)

 

All organic matter will eventually biodegrade. This includes petroleum products and derivatives such as plastic products. However, the rate of biodegradation of different organic materials can vary on an exponential scale. Therefore, the term biodegradable is essentially meaningless without being tied to a specific timeframe and environment. Without further description based on time and environment, the term biodegradable does not distinguish between a product that biodegrades in the soil in a thousand years, and one that biodegrades in a compost pile in 180 days. 

 

Biodegradable Plastics not equal to Compostable Plastics: A plastic product designed to biodegrade does not necessarily compost. Plastics are designed to biodegrade in specific environments, including a marine environment, sunlight, soil, and some are intended to be properly managed at an industrial compost facility. 

 

Compostable Plastics: A compostable plastic is defined by the standards association ASTM International (ASTM) as “a plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield carbon dioxide (CO2), water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and that leaves no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.”

PLA Lining: PLA stands for polylactic acid and is a resin made from corn starch. In most cases, starch from corn kernels is processed into a biopolymer that looks, acts, and performs like petroleum-based plastics.PLA is used to make clear compostable containers and PLA lining is used in cups and containers as an impermeable liner. PLA is commonly made from genetically modified corn product. PLA is biodegradable, and compostable primarily ONLY in commercial or indusrial facilities - not in backyard or community compost sites. It is said to use up to 65 percent less energy to produce than conventional oil-based plastics and generates 68 percent fewer greenhouse gasses and contains few to no toxins. 

Sugarcane/Bagasse: Sugarcane/bagasses (definition offered by Eco-products) is a byproduct of making sugar. When sugarcane stalks are harvested, they're pressed to release their juices that get processed into sugar. Then, rather than burning or throwing the used sugarcane stalks away, the fibrous pulp is made into a paper-like substance called bagasse which is then formed into a wide variety of products like containers, plates, and bowls.

Wheatstraw: These products are made from the straw leftover after the grain is harvested, not the grain itself. 

 

The word bioplastics can cause confusion because it holds two meanings. Bioplastics can refer to the following: 

1. “Where the material comes from”: A plastic made from a biobased origin such as corn, sugar, or starch, as opposed to a fossil-based carbon source. Biobased plastics are also called “plant-derived” or products that are derived from “new carbon” or “organic carbon,” or “renewable carbon.”

2. “Where the material goes after use”: A plastic that biodegrades in some time frame that is relevant, meaning it will decompose in closer to a year than 1,000 years, which is a normal rate for fossil fuel-based plastics. 

BioPlastics vs. Petroleum Plastics UF IFAS Blog: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/flaglerco/2018/05/14/bioplastics-vs-petroleum-plastics/

Materials Life Cycle Resource: Design Life-Cycle.com- Helps readers understand the hidden costs and true nature of material extraction, production, and the potential for cycling it back into the market or planet. (Thank you Sophia M. for sharing this!)

CERTIFICATIONS:

 

BPI Certified - Biodegradable Products Institute - The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a not-for-profit association of key individuals and groups from government, industry and academia.  The BPI certification program applies science-based testing to prove a material will compost in a municipal or commercial facility and leave no toxic or lingering plastic residues in the soil.

 

ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials Standards

ASTM D6400: ASTM D6400 STANDARD SPECIFICATION OUTLINE:  D6400 has three basic provisions that govern how a product must perform in a simulated compost environment: 

 

1. First, the product must physically disintegrate to the extent that it cannot be “readily distinguishable” from the finished compost product. 

2. Second, the product must actually biodegrade (be consumed by microorganisms) at a rate comparable to known compostable materials. 

3. Finally, the product cannot have adverse impacts on the ability of the compost to support plant growth. 

 

 A set of three tests, including D5338, that must meet pass/fail criteria for the compostability of a plastic in an industrial composting facility. A product that passes this standard specification can claim to be compostable.

 

COMPANIES AND PRODUCTS TO CONSIDER:

**To use products in Sunshine Community Compost city park sites, ALWAYS make sure that "compostable" products do not have PLA lining and that products are clearly marked for intended use in a backyard or community compost site. The majority of compostable single use items and bags ARE NOT SUITED FOR OUR SYSTEMS and are rated as "suited for industrial composting facilities where they exist." We do not accept compostable plates, cups, bowls or utensil. But if you have a backyard system of your own, we recommend that you choose reusable over single use, and if compostable - only BPI certified, sugarcane bagasse, wheatstraw, compostable/ recycled content fiber plates/bowls and choose wooden utensils over PLA products. Reusable is ALWAYS PREFERRED over single use compostable. 

Check BPI first: http://products.bpiworld.org/

 

BioBag

  • Are BioBags home compostable? - Home compostability is different from industrial compostability for two main reasons: 1) the temperatures reached by the waste inside the home composting bin are usually only a few centigrade degrees higher than the outside temperature, and this is true for short time periods (in industrial composting, the temperatures reach 50°C (122 F)– with peaks of 60-70°C – for a number of months); 2) home composting bins are managed by amateurs, and the composting conditions might not always be ideal (in contrast, industrial composting plants are managed by qualified personnel, and kept under ideal working conditions). BioBags, most commonly used for managing waste are certified as “home compostable”, as they biodegrade at the temperature of the environment and in a home composting bin.

Good Start Packaging

Green Paper Products

World Centric 

 

Bridge Gate

 

Eco Products

 

Earth’s Natural Alternative Plates

 

REMEMBER:

  • Products may say that they are “made with plant plastics”, but are still not “certified compostable”. It can be cheaper to mix plant-based plastics and regular petrochemical plastics together to make a fork, than it is to use 100% plant-based plastic.

 

  • Products labeled biodegradable are not necessarily compostable

 

  • Best way to make product purchase decisions is to focus on BPI Certified products and ASTM D6400 products

 

  • The ambiguity surrounding the term biodegradability is why California law prohibits the use of the term biodegradable or degradable on any bag, cup or food service ware container and only permits the use of the term compostable on such containers if the containers meet a certain standard designed by the ASTM called the ASTM D6400 standard 

RESOURCES:

 

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/10022381.html 

© 2017 All photos by Tracie Troxler