Green and Sustainable

Reusable Grocery BagWith no clear definition of green or sustainable, it is impossible to have an objective discussion.

Living in sustainable buildings and doing business with green companies who make eco friendly products are logical components of green living. The greens condemn oil, natural gas, nuclear, coal and over population with the only solution as vague “shared sacrifice.”. They are consistent with their aversion to all things plastic, whether plant plastic or petroleum fossil fuel based plastic.

While most companies talk about “doing their part”, some of our plastic is actually conserving water and saving trees. We have collaborated with Michigan State University to develop a revolutionary membrane which conserves water and nutrients. In addition to increasing crop yields, “SWRT” transforms previously unarable land into productive land which sometimes yields two or more crops per year. We work with Synergy Semiochemicals to protect trees and stop the blight of emerald ash borer as well as other invasive insects

If sustainability is about the best practices for the long term maintenance of the planet and humans, what are the best choices and practices for plastics in green buildings and plastic packaging?

The crux of the sustainability in plastics debate is equal parts feedstocks and end of life. Nobody seems to care about the other aspects of the life cycle analysis such as how plastic is made and the environmental impact of fertilizer runoff. Manufacturers of plant plastics, or bioplastics, contend their types of plastic are more sustainable because petroleum based plastics from fossil fuels are derived from a finite resource. In any case, the shortest incontrovertible route to going green is source reduction.

The burgeoning Extended Producer Responsibility movement or EPR will apply to all types of plastic whether biobased or conventional plastics. It will be an excuse for another stealth tax and increase the cost of plastics to the consumer.

Even though the Federal Trade Commission in October 2010 issued new rules for green marketing and labeling, dubious environmental claims are everywhere. These rules are enforced only in the most flagrant cases.

The Walmart’s packaging scorecard is an example of source reduction. Read a commentary about Walmart’s green initiative.

Evaluating the choices for sustainable packaging and green buildings involves weighting the factors of toxicity and life cycle analysis (LCA), not just end of life. The final arbiter of life cycle analysis is the EPA.

Eliminating plastic from one’s life entirely is impractical. Source reduction, or using the least amount is the most incontrovertible, shortest route to going green. According to the EPA, “the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.” Many products are overpackaged because marketing believes the consumer will consider a product cheap if a minimal amount of packaging is used.

For information on bannning single use plastics, click here

Reusing and recycling plastic has limitations. Plastic is simply compressed natural gas; every heat history oxidizes plastic. Subsequent uses of recycled plastic are in practicality downcycling.

For prolonged and direct food contact, it doesn’t make common sense to package food in post consumer plastic. Today’s milk jug can be tomorrow’s pickup bed liner, for example. 

PET Recycling

The only plastic approved for recycling into prolonged and direct contact for food packaging is polyethylene terephthalate. This plastic is actually repolymerized, or broken down into monomer then reassembled. Despite this landmark approval by the FDA, only roughly one in three PET bottles are recycled. Instead, they are discarded in the landfill.

A global patchwork quilt of regulations is slowly eliminating heavy metals and toxins from plastics. While some chemicals such as BPA have borne the brunt of hysteria, other chemicals such as phthalates are still commonly used in PVC. Wall coverings and billboards made from PVC dump large quantities of known toxins into the environment as PVC degrades. The green premium for PVC free is often more than the market is willing to pay for honestly green living.

All our products are heavy metal free and BPA free.

In addition to PVC substitutes, we offer conventional polyethylene, biodegradable plastics and information to make an informed decision.

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