Among this years speakers and attendees were Be Green CEO Ron Blitzer, who spoke on a panel about the sustainable packaging industry/market and what it means to be a triple bottom line company in todays marketplace.
Archive for November, 2011
Tags: Be Green Packaging, governor, green jobs, manufacturing, nikki haley, pinckney senator, Ridgeland, South Carolina
Highlights of recent Be Green company milestones. Governor Nikki Haley talks about what Be Green brings to South Carolina with the first plant fiber packaging manufacturing facility in the US.
Tags: Be Green Packaging, compostable packaging, Green, jon fisher, recyclable, the nature conservancy
Jon Fisher of The Nature Conservancy recently released this excellent article on the sustainability of green packaging, which addresses some common questions that people often have about compostable products. Jon makes some important distinctions between PLA (corn based ‘biodegradable’ plastics) and plant fiber based products, such as the one Be Green manufactures.
- Justin Faerman
How Green Is Compostable Packaging?
By Jon Fisher, The Nature Conservancy
I was recently asked a question about “compostable” food packaging being used by some grocers like Trader Joe’s and how “green” they are. As a scientist who strives to be as green as possible, this is the kind of question that keeps me up at night! So I thought it would be fun to research.
The short, scientific answer is that skipping packaging entirely is best if possible, but otherwise for most consumers the compostable containers are probably slightly better than traditional plastics (with several caveats, explained below).
It probably comes as no surprise that it’s better to buy produce that comes unpackaged — e.g., buy your grains or beans in bulk rather than in small bags. This practice is especially true if you skip putting the produce in a plastic bag or reuse the bags or Tupperware you use to bring them home (I give plastic bags a quick rinse and hang them to dry in the kitchen).
Do your onions or lemons (or any produce with skin that keeps it fresh) really need their own bag, or can they just go in the shopping cart and then in your tote bag before being unpacked at home?
But sometimes produce doesn’t come in bulk (e.g. berries), and some stores package produce that doesn’t need it. So if no packaging isn’t an option, the question remains as to whether or not “compostable” containers are better than traditional plastic. There are several factors to consider.
First, there are two basic kinds of compostable containers:
- The ones that look like natural plant fiber, such as the packages Whole Foods uses for their salad bar. These are often made from bamboo, grass, sugar cane or other similar materials. They are tree-free, typically break down in a home composter within a month or two (my vermicomposter takes about a month) and are always a great option.
- The ones that look like plastic are usually corn-based polylactic acid (PLA), can’t be recycled and can only be composted in a special commercial facility.
The traditional plastic containers at the grocery store are typically #1 plastic (PET). So those are sometimes, but not always, recyclable.
It’s a plus if the container didn’t require petroleum to manufacture, since that helps wean us off of oil (although there is some concern that increasing global demand for corn for PLA and ethanol is driving higher food costs). Both kinds of compostable containers also typically require less energy to produce (e.g. PLA requires about 25-51 percent less energy than conventional plastics).
What are the disposal options for each of these packages? See the chart on the next page for a quick synopsis.
|Compostable||Recyclable||Time in Landfill|
|Fiber||Yes||Sometimes, see Note 3||Slow to degrade|
|PLA||Sometimes, see Note 1||No||Very slow to degrade|
|Plastic||No||Sometimes, see Note 2||Very slow to degrade|
There are some new methods being studied to sort out PLA using near-infrared light or black light, so that you could just recycle these compostable containers with your other plastics, and leave it to the facility to figure out how to properly dispose of it.
But for now, follow these rules:
- Bring your own reusable bags or containers to the store when they do offer unpackaged produce or other items so you don’t need to use new bags
- Please consider asking companies like Trader Joe’s to eliminate packaging for some of their produce that doesn’t need it, and failing that, to accept back their compostable containers for proper disposal.
- Look for a convenient place near you to take compostable containers (try health food stores or findacomposter.com)
- If you don’t compost at home yet, give it a try! It works great for fiber containers.
- If you can’t find a place to compost PLA, but can recycle the kinds of containers you get at the store, consider buying (and recycling) plastic containers instead.
Note 1: Not compostable at home, but ask at your local health food store if they accept drop-offs to ship to an industrial composting facility. You can also try findacomposter.com.
Note 2: Many recycling facilities have restrictions on recycling #1 or #2 plastics. They often don’t take “clamshell” containers (even if they say they take #1/#2), and only accept narrow neck bottles. Call your facility to check.
Note 3: Most communities don’t recycle fiber with food contamination, but if your fiber container is clean (e.g. you only used it for product without dressing) you can recycle it as cardboard. If you can recycle pizza boxes in your area, you should be able to recycle the fiber containers no matter what.
Jon Fisher is a data management specialist for The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization. He has studied forestry, environmental biology, stream ecology, environmental engineering and how technology and spatial analysis can improve wildlife management at airports. He also loves to cook delicious vegan food. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-green-is-compostable-packaging.html#ixzz1dnhHzp15
Tags: attorney, biodegradable, bottle, california, compostable, general, plastic
Posted by Lisa McTigue Pierce — Packaging Digest, 10/26/2011 9:03:37 AM
By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.
In a move that could have a major impact on the recycling industry, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will sue three national companies that make plastic bottles or sell bottled water in California, contending that they illegally claim their bottles are “biodegradable.”
The lawsuit to be filed Wednesday, seeks to have tens of thousands of bottles of Aquamantra and Balance Water removed from supermarket shelves immediately. It asserts that the bottles used by those brands do not actually decompose naturally and that they contaminate other types of recycled plastic. Further, the suit states that their green-sounding labels could lead to increased littering if consumers believe that tossed bottles will decompose like apple cores or banana peels.
“The manufacturers of these bottles are taking advantage of Californians’ concern for their environment,” Harris said. “Consumers are led to believe they are being environmentally friendly by choosing these bottles. In fact, they could be further damaging our natural resources.”
The court action, filed in Orange County Superior Court, names ENSO Plastics, a bottle-maker based in Mesa, Ariz., along with the retail companies that sell bottled water: Aquamantra, of Dana Point, and Balance Water, of West Orange, N.J.
The products of all three companies are found in stores across California and other states, including major grocery chains such as Whole Foods and Albertson’s.
The complaint notes that in 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that bans the use of the term “biodegradable” on any plastic food or beverage packaging.
The law, by former Assemblyman Mark Desaulnier, D-Walnut Creek, came after concerns that companies were making claims about container materials that could not be scientifically supported.
Martin Chalk, a spokesman for Balance Water, said the company has been in contact with the attorney general’s office.
“It’s particularly frustrating,” he said. “We’re trying to do something good, but if it’s determined that we haven’t done enough research, then we’ll switch bottles.”
Chalk declined to answer specific questions about the bottles, such as how long they take to decompose, whether they break down into the same basic organic components as food or whether they contaminate the waste stream when mixed with other types of plastic bottles.
He referred specific questions to ENSO, the company that manufactures the bottles used by Balance Water.
Representatives for ENSO and for Aquamantra did not return calls seeking comment.
One of the state’s leading recycling advocacy groups cheered the action, saying it could resonate nationwide.
“We’re very happy that the attorney general’s office is moving forward with this issue,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a Sacramento environmental group. “The public has been deceived by this false environmental marketing, and we’re hopeful that this action will discourage others from making similar false environmental claims.”
In its marketing materials, ENSO claims its bottles “biodegrade in anaerobic (landfill) environments, breaking down through microbial action into biogases and inert humus, leaving behind no harmful materials.”
But Murray said studies have shown that the type of plastic used in ENSO’s bottles—basic PET plastic, which is mixed with a microbial additive—doesn’t really decompose the way natural materials do.
“We are not adding nutrients to the soil when these things break down,” he said. “We are simply breaking the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces so it can’t be seen.”
Bottles deemed “biodegradable” are different from “plant-based” plastic bottles recently embraced by Coca-Cola, Odwalla juice, Heinz ketchup and a number of other companies.
Plant-based bottles are nearly identical to typical plastic bottles, which have the number 1 on the bottom but are made from sugar cane, corn and other materials instead of oil. They also can be recycled with traditional plastic, Murray said, while the “biodegradable” bottles have proved problematic.
“Even in small percentages, like one-tenth of one percent, these are just catastrophic for us,” said Ed Byrne, CEO of Peninsula Packaging in Visalia. “They melt at different temperatures. They ruin our products.”
Byrne’s company, which buys flaked plastic from No. 1 PET bottles and turns them into clear plastic clamshell containers for strawberries, muffins, salads and other foods, said the biodegradable plastic causes the newly made containers to have slimy streaks.
“For anybody involved in the recycling stream,” Byrne said of the lawsuit, “this will be good news.”
(c)2011 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at http://www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
The Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council held its annual Green Gala Fundraiser on October 21st, 2011 at the historic Santa Barbara Armory. Among this years attendees was Be Green Packaging, who supports the CEC’s mission by annually sponsoring a table at the event. Be Green is aligned both in principal and vision with the mission of the CEC:
“CEC’s mission is to identify, advocate, raise awareness, and develop effective programs to solve the most pressing environmental issues that affect the Santa Barbara region. We currently focus all of our energy on building a community-based movement that transitions the region off of fossil fuels in one generation — Fossil Free by ’33.”
The CEC is a highly visible organization in the Santa Barbara community and works tirelessly to educate and promote awareness of the principles of sustainability. Be Green is proud to support the Community Environmental Council in its outreach efforts.