Make food packaging safe, healthy and green

Biodegradable V Compostable - How To Avoid Greenwash

by:Greenweimo     2020-07-21
By the end of this post I'd like for you to be clear on 1 key point: that the label biodegradable does not imply the same thing as the word compostable. To get started, I am going to explain 3 things: 1) the meaning of compostable, 2) the definition of 'biodegradable', and 3) how you can ensure that when you're purchasing food packaging that is labeled compostable or biodegradable, you aren't being misled. Here we go. 1) The term compostable's definition is tightly governed by the standards ASTM D-6400, ASTM D-6868, and EN 13432. Calling something compostable means three things. #1) Biodegradable - this requires that sixty to ninety percent of the product will break down inside of one hundred and eighty days when placed in an industrial organics recycling facility. #2) Disintegration - this indicates that ninety percent of the product will degrade into tiny pieces that are 2mm in diameter or smaller. #3) Eco-Toxicity - this indicates that once the package breaks down in a commercial facility it is not going to deposit heavy metals that are poisonous to the soil above that of a control group. 2) The term biodegradable however, merely indicates that the product is going to break down during a period of time through natural processes. It could mean any period of time... it could mean tens of years, it could mean 1000s of years. Quite literally, even a normal oil based plastic container or package is biodegradable - at some point, eventually, it's going to decompose. 3) What does this mean for food service ware? In essence, you should look for food packaging products that are expressly marked compostable. There are manufacturers out there that are applying the word 'biodegradable', and they are applying it to greenwash their products as good for the environment and basically fool you into purchasing them. I've worked with food service retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been alerted by SF Environment and by the organics recycling center outside of SF that they don't take biodegradable utensils because they won't compost in a commercial composting facility. You need to look for products that specifically mention that they are compostable. If it's cups, you'll see a green ring and the word compostable on the cup. If it is on a knife, you'll see the word compostable printed on it. You need to look for the term compostable or you should see if the service ware is Biodegradable Products Institute certified. The BPI ensures that these products uphold to the standards that we discussed a little bit ago. So, I trust you now understand the difference between something that's compostable versus biodegradable. Good luck with all your eco-friendly packaging purchases!
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