Frequently Asked Questions

We know there’s still lots of confusion about bioplastics and planet love. It’s our goal to help demystify all the science-speak with as much everyday language as possible.

You’ll find some of the most common questions we receive below.

We’re here for you if you need further assistance.

 

What is a bioplastic?

A material can be called a “bioplastic” if it contains a minimum of 25% plant-based material. When we say “plant-based”, it means that it comes from renewable, plant based sources. Plant sources currently used for bioplastics are often corn, sugarcane or cellulose, depending on what’s most readily available in the country of manufacture. There’s lots of development happening to expand the source of plant-based materials to include agricultural waste and even CO2 re-capture, which is pretty exciting stuff. The building blocks for our plant-based products and packaging can come from any of these emerging sources, and we intend to integrate the latest developments as they become commercially viable.

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What does biodegradable mean?

The term biodegradable refers to a chemical process during which micro-organisms in the environment break a material down into elements found in nature. The biodegradation process and timeline is dependent on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), and there is no regulated timeline in which a material labelled as “biodegradable” must break down.

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Are all bioplastics compostable?

The term “bioplastic” is not an indicator of which end-of-life options it may be suitable for. Bioplastics may not be compostable for a number of reasons, including: 1. they break down too slowly to fit under the definition of compostability; 2. they contain a sufficient level of material that will not biodegrade into usable soil; and/or 3. they contain potentially hazardous additives to trigger biodegradation that remain present after the material has broken down. These factors are regulated by the standards set out by the ASTM D6400 testing method, meaning that for a product or package to be called “compostable”, it must biodegrade in a commercial compost facility in 180 days or less. Testing must also be completed on the final product or packaging, not just the base material.

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Can I compost bioplastics in my backyard?

While compostable plastics may start to show signs of degradation in a home compost over time, they will certainly not biodegrade within a 180-day timeframe. If the right combination of heat, sunlight and moisture is not present, it’s possible you’ll see no signs whatsoever of any biodegradation. Home composting is really not a viable option for today’s compostable plastics.

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Do your products biodegrade in a marine environment?

Our plant-based plastic products and packaging have not been tested for this specific end-of-life option, so we will not claim that they do. We would much rather recover and re-use the material to make new products or packaging.

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Will your products and packaging biodegrade in a landfill?

Over time, there will be some signs of degradation, but there are no reliable statistics yet to suggest how long this process will take. In fact, all plastics will degrade in a landfill to some extent, and that has always been a cornerstone of our Green Chemistry approach. As plastics degrade, they will begin to release some of their chemical compounds into the surrounding land and water. It’s for this reason that we remain staunchly committed to using the maximum plant-based materials and no hazardous chemicals that may leach into the environment.

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Why should I switch to plant-based plastics?

Plant-based plastics can help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels by substituting petroleum-based raw materials with annually renewable resources, such as corn, sugar beet or perennial cultures (including cassava and sugar cane). Plant-based plastics are typically also less energy-intensive to produce meaning there is also the potential to reduce carbon emissions during manufacturing.

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Are your products and packaging less durable than other plastics?

Nope. We’ve worked really hard to make sure that’s not the case. Very often, the materials we use perform the same if not better than their fossil fuel counterparts. However, we also have a keen focus on design and form to further increase durability and performance. In some cases, we’re able to both downgauge a package (meaning reduce the thickness of the material and thus save both weight and resources) and improve its durability at the same time.

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Don't bioplastics contaminate recycling streams?

This is a loaded question! At a technical level, any of our packaging and products can be collected and re-ground and used to make new products. The issue with recycling is more about collection and recovery processes that differ greatly by jurisdiction than it is about whether or not bioplastics are a contaminant. With infrared equipment, all plastics could be easily sorted and re-used. However, the tight economics of the recycling industry mean that most facilities still sort by hand, and that won’t be changing in the near future.
You’ll also see lots of products on store shelves labelled as “recyclable”, and we could easily say that too. However, we don’t unless we know a curbside program is available to most people in an area we’re distributing our products. We’ve been told we’re crazy to uphold this standard when everyone else is doing it, but it’s our goal to be mindful and share the facts, not the spin.

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Are plastics toxic?

There’s a lot of different information out there on this topic. Some chemicals traditionally used in plastics have been shown to be potentially hazardous to human health and the planet, such as BPAs. Also, typical additives used to improve flame retardancy are often halogen-based, which can be hazardous if they leach out of the plastic. We think it’s best not to take chances, and so we keep any potentially hazardous chemicals out of our products and packaging.
Any manufacturer should be able to supply a Material Safety Data Sheet and declaration to state that their plastics contain no hazardous chemicals. Our advice is – ask for it! We happily provide this documentation to our customers.

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Thermoformed PET packaging can be recycled, so why should I use plant-based packaging?

In fact, most of the thermoformed packaging produced in the US is not actually recycled for several reasons, including: 1. the recycler may not have the equipment necessary to sort PET from PVC packaging, so limits sorting to PET and HDPE bottles; 2. PET packaging can include complex parts, including paper backers, adhesives, printing and labelling, which may make it difficult to recycle without manual intervention; 3. the packaging may be contaminated with food waste or other contents; and/or 4. the recycler may not have a buyer for these types of materials, and so considers them waste.

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What is downcycling?

Downcycling is the process of converting waste materials or discarded products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. Recycled plastics can only be converted into lower grade plastic products or packaging. A plastic product can be downcycled a finite number of times, after which point it will end up in the landfill.

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What is PLA?

PLA, Poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA) is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources, most typically cornstarch or sugarcane. A large number of plant-based plastics are currently produced using a PLA base given that it’s readily available and cost effective.

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Do bioplastics cost more?

They don’t have to. Cost is a combination of the materials, the manufacturing processes, distribution and marketing. On a pound-for-pound basis, most bioplastics cost more than their fossil fuel based counterparts. However, our approach to combining the best materials with optimized designs with our own distribution networks often means our product and packaging programs can be cost neutral.

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How are your products going to help me meet my company’s sustainability goals?

There are many ways we can help you make meet your eco-friendly objectives. Here are some of the primary benefits:
· Our products and packaging are made without any chemicals of concern. If you’re focused on reducing potentially hazardous chemicals, our plant-based products and packaging can make an impact
· If you’re looking to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels (or to kick fossil fuels to the curb as we like to say!), our products and packaging are made with the maximum possible renewable, plant-based materials
· Bioplastics can be produced using less energy, meaning you may benefit from an immediate reduction in CO2 emissions. Full disclosure, however – you would need to confirm specific CO2 reductions through custom life cycle assessments that take into account your current processes and transportation network.

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