When most people see that a product or package is marked “biodegradable” they think that they can toss the product on the side of a road or into a landfill and it’s going to breakdown in a reasonably short period of time.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Today, the term biodegegradable is not held to any technical or scientific definition. As a result, manufacturers of plastic products have been greenwashing with the term (e.g., Taterware) — claiming that their products are biodegradable when really aren’t… or they are, but they would take tens, hundreds, or thousands of years to actually biodegrade.
To date the use of the term has not been regulated by the government, but that’s about to change in the state of California, where Senate Bill 1454 is about to become law.
SB 1454 will require all products and packaging that want to use the term biodegradable to pass legitamate verifiable end-of-life tests known as ASTM standard specifications (specifically ASTM D6400 and D6868). These standards are already in use today to certify that products are compostable and that they will breakdown in a commercial composting environment within a 180 day period. If the bill is brought into law it will eliminate (for Californians at least) today’s confusing distinction that biodegradable and compostable do not mean the same thing.
SB 1454 is sponsored by Californians Against Waste and has the support of the key players in the industry (e.g., the Biodegradable Products Institute, City and County of San Francisco, the NRDC). The bill is opposed (as you’d guess) by one of the makers of greenwashing plastic trash bags known as Green Genius.
Here’s hoping the Governator puts pen to paper and (at least in California) we can do away with one form of greenwash.
Photo Credit: Fake Plastic Fish
Dinesh Thirupuvanam runs an eco buying cooperative called the Viv Biz Club that helps small businesses save up to 80% on compostable plates, food packaging, recycled office supplies, and more.