Navigating the "Green World" - Eco Terms & Sustainable Technologies

In December 2019, First Insight, a world leader in predictive analytics, surveyed consumers in the U.S. on how sustainable practices are impacting their shopping habits and purchase decisions. The results showed the growing expectation for sustainable goods as the current generation makes purchases dependent on the environmental ethics of how a product is manufactured.

Hands Holding Earth Growing a Seedling

One way to be more sustainable is to reduce landfill waste and microplastics that leach harmful BPA’s. Consider replacing petroleum-based or poly plastics with biodegradable and compostable plant-based PLA products at your facility today!

Also available are bio-based and recycled fiber technologies that utilizes stockpiles of useless recycled P.E.T. plastic water bottles. Shredded, extruded as a fiber, and then blended with recuperated polyester yarns, this recycled yarn technology is used in the knitting processes of industrial protective sleeves and work gloves.

If you are searching for Eco-friendly personal protection equipment (PPE) or disposable food catering supplies, there have been many sustainable product innovations launched to divert landfill as billions and billions of plastic type items are disposed yearly.

The “Green World” can be overwhelming. With so many buzz words and phrases, it’s hard to keep track of the many Eco-terms used in today’s marketplace. We thought it would be good to define some everyday and lesser known terms and share them with you so you can better navigate towards a healthier world.

ECO-TERMINOLOGIES

Recyclable

Recyclable waste or materials can be processed and used again. Kept separated, dry card or paper can be recycled, so can plastic bottles, glass, or metal drink cans, but used disposables are often a mix of card, plastic, and food, which makes contamination often inevitable. This combination creates massive recycling challenges, often resulting in incineration or landfill.

Biodegradable

Biodegradable means something that breaks down or decomposes naturally by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or other living organisms in an ecosystem, but it can take years. Unless a product is certified or validated, biodegradable often tells us nothing about timescales.

New additives to nitrile compounds are allowing treated gloves to break down, or biodegrade, in natural elements such as landfills at much faster rates (see below).

Compostable

Compostable means something that can disintegrate into non-toxic, natural elements at a rate consistent with organic materials, typically in less than 12 weeks. Commercial composting is a human-driven process that creates the perfect balance of microbes, moisture, and warmth. So, instead of being buried or burnt, compostable “waste” creates nutrient-rich compost that helps plants thrive through microbial activity.

Think of both compostable and biodegradable as recycling organic waste using naturally occurring or biological processes. The main difference between the two is that biodegradable material can take an undetermined time to break down.

Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutrality is a state of net zero carbon dioxide emissions. A business is carbon neutral if it balances the carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere through their everyday activities with the amount they absorb or remove from the atmosphere.

Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint (or greenhouse gas footprint) serves as an indicator to compare the total amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from an activity, product, company, or country. Carbon footprints are usually reported in tons of emissions (CO2-equivalent) per unit of comparison. For a product, its carbon footprint includes the emissions for the entire life cycle, from the production along the supply chain to its final consumption and disposal. Similarly for an organization, its carbon footprint includes the direct as well as the indirect emissions caused by the organization.

Sustainability

Sustainability is a social goal pertaining to the ability of people to inhabit the Earth well into the future. Sustainability often focuses on countering major environmental problems, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution.

Zero Waste

Zero waste is defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). It is the process of avoiding consumed or recovered products that creates waste and contributes to landfills, incinerators, and waste discharge into nature that threaten the environment or human health.

Zero Emissions

Zero emissions (also sometimes described as ‘zero carbon’) means exactly what it says: the business or activity produces no greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere - that is no carbon dioxide, no methane, no nitrous oxide.
 

Greenwashing & Green Guides

With increasing demand for eco-friendly products, some manufacturers label products as "biodegradable," as this requires no certification. Manufacturers may get away with this term, even when it takes years or decades to fully break down. This is known as greenwashing - environmental benefits are implied, but the claims don’t match what the consumer believes they’re getting. In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) produced their “Green Guides” in an attempt to prevent marketers from making misleading claims. “Green Guides” provide guidance on environmental claims specific to biodegradability:

  • (a) prohibits unqualified degradable claims for items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities because decomposition will not occur within one year, or
  • (b) degradable claims should be qualified, clearly stating the ability to degrade in the environment where it is customarily disposed and the rate and extent of degradation.
  • For compostable and biodegradable claims, manufacturers must have scientific evidence, demonstrating that all materials become usable compost in a timely manner.

    BIODEGRADABILITY TECHNOLOGIES

    Green Nitrile glove Impressing into soil

    New treatments to nitrile compounds allow treated gloves to break down, or biodegrade, in natural elements, such as landfills, at much faster rates than untreated gloves, which could be 200+ years. These treatments comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide, and the product has been tested and measured for validity by a renowned third party (see Testing & Certification Below).

    Eco-Best Technology® (EBT) & EcoTek® Accelerated Biodegradability

    SHOWA®’s Eco-Best Technology® (EBT) and SW® Safety’s EcoTek® technologies accelerate the biodegradation of nitrile in biologically active landfills without altering the protective nature or shelf life of the glove, nor will it begin to biodegrade prior to disposal.

    These sustainable gloves do not leave any toxic residue behind, and they will not contaminate ground water or the environment as validated by third-party testing using test method ASTM D5526-12, a standard test method for determining anaerobic biodegradation of plastics in accelerated landfill conditions.

    How It Works

    When disposed in landfills, proprietary organic additives are added to the nitrile formulation during processing, designed to make the glove attractive to microbial activity in a landfill, and therefore, deteriorates in landfills over a much shorter time than untreated gloves. Upon consumption of the formulation, micro-organisms excrete enzymes that break down the nitrile, leaving zero waste behind.

    BIODEGRADABLE TESTING & CERTIFICATION

    For compostable and biodegradable claims, manufacturers must have scientific evidence demonstrating that all materials decompose in a timely manner. When we see the terms biodegradable or compostable on a product label, we should look for one more thing: a testing certification.

    ASTM D5526 and ASTM D5511 Biodegradable Standards

    These two testing methods are respected and accepted tests for determining anaerobic biodegradation of plastics in accelerated landfill conditions. The major difference between the two methods revolves around the length of time.

    The ASTM D5526 mimics landfill conditions, making it the more reliable test of the two that can be run for as long as required to establish the time it takes for a glove to break down. The ASTM D5511 test measures biodegradation under ideal landfill conditions in a laboratory. Typically a shorter test, D5511 is traditionally 30 days long and is frequently used as a "stand-in" while the longer D5526 test is being conducted. ASTM International forbids extrapolating the final biodegradation percentage and timeline from this D5511 test because it can send a false sense of security.

    GreenCircle® Certification

    GreenCircle® is an internationally recognized, highly respected third-party certification entity who, thorough evaluation processes, provides independent verification that sustainability abilities related to an organization’s products and operations are honest, valid, and verified against ASTM D5511 and D5526 test methods.

    A GreenCircle® biodegradable certification endorsement demonstrates an organization’s commitment to utilize materials and develop products that will completely break down and return to nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal, and reduce reliance on materials that do not decompose, thereby reducing the amount of waste in landfills.

    ASTM-D6400 Compostable Standard

    Compostable packaging needs to be in composting conditions in order to compost. For PLA to compost, one must break up the polymer by adding water to it (a process known as hydrolyzing) and for hydrolyzing to occur, heat and moisture are required. The most widely used compostability standards are the American ASTM D6400 and the European EN13432. They include the following elements:

    1. Biodegradation - materials turn to soil through microbial action at the same rate as cellulose (paper).

    2. Disintegration - the materials fall into small pieces.

    3. Eco-toxicity - seeds can germinate in the resulting compost (i.e. it's useful for plant growth)

    4. Heavy metals - the compost is safe to go onto land.

    BIO-BASED FIBERS

    Shredded and extruded as a fiber, rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate. It is a type of plastic made from recycled PET plastic, which is commonly used for packaging and containers for foods and beverages. rPET plastic is very sustainable, as it can be 100% completely recycled, bottled, labeled, and capped. This means that rPET bottles have a lower carbon footprint than virgin P.E.T. bottles, it takes less energy to recycle and create an rPET bottle than to manufacture a virgin PET, and it generates fewer CO2 emissions. In addition, diverting P.E.T. bottles from landfills reduces soil contamination, air pollution, and water pollution from toxic microplastics.

    We are dedicated to promoting biodegradable and environmentally sustainable products. By working to create a cleaner environment through efforts of earth-friendly technologies, we will strive to work for a better tomorrow.

    PLANT-BASED PLA

    PLA is a plastic substrate made from fermented plant starch (usually corn), and it is fast becoming a popular alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics, such as polyethylene. For PLA to compost, you must break up the polymer by adding water to it (a process known as hydrolyzing) and for hydrolyzing to occur, heat and moisture are required.

    MDS will continue to seek revolutionary products that prioritizes the needs of future generations and deliver effective and sustainable solutions to the marketplace. Take the next step in sustainability and consider a healthier choice for our planet.

    We Can’t Change Earth’s Past But We Can Its Future, and It Starts With You! Divert Landfill, Stop Plastic Pollution and Go Sustainable Today!

    Next Blog
    February , 28 2024 | MDS Associates Get to Know Your Plastics Chemicals and microscopic particles from plastics are a constant part of our daily lives and unfortunately, our diet. The more you know about plastic, the better off you will be so you can make educated decisions about the food and water you consume and your health. Read More
    February , 21 2024 | MDS Associates Portwest® Planet Products Are Depleting Plastic Stockpiles If you’re in charge of environmental clean-up efforts and planning to equip individuals with hi-visibility safety garments such as traffic safety vests, work t-shirts, sweatshirts or winter jackets with retro-reflective accents, then you need to consider the Portwest® line of industrial Eco-friendly safety clothing that utilizes bio-based yarn technology. Read More
    February , 07 2024 | MDS Associates Boost Pre-Roll Freshness with Patented Biodegradable BOOST® Sticks Integra BOOST® Sticks are a slim-profile, non-toxic FDA-compliant humectant designed for cannabis travel and storage tubes. This patented two-way humidifier uses a plant-based, salt-free technology to maintain optimal humidity levels safely and effectively without affecting the nuanced aromas and taste of your pre-roll or cigar. Read More
    January , 31 2024 | MDS Associates Divert Landfill! ECOSeries™ BioSoft™ Sustainable Single-Use Ear Plugs Sustainable ECOSeries™ BioSoft™ ear plugs are the first TAA compliant ear plugs to be made from bio-based technologies. The soft, smooth, low pressure BioSoft™ biodegradable ear plug foam is made in America and provides wearers with the same fit, comfort and performance as conventional polyurethane or PVC ear plug materials, but boasts a lower carbon footprint. Read More