A group of local government, business and environmental officials on Sept. 30 will release a new list of specifications for food service ware made from bio-based materials to industry leaders.
The presentation will be made at Biopolymer Symposium 2009, held Sept. 28-30 in Chicago.
The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative and the Business-NGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Materials argue that it is important to make products from renewable resources, but that using bio-based content cannot be the only measure of sustainability. It is critical that human health and environmental safety be at the forefront of material choices as more industries turn to bio-based options, officials said.
How do we avoid the problems in history that introduced multiple industrial chemicals and raw materials without factoring environmental problems and public health issues? Stan Eller, SBC coordinator, said in a Sept. 24 telephone interview. Testing was not required in advance of those products being introduced. We're encouraging this market area to develop with these questions being addressed upfront.
The group intends to avoid green washed products those that are deceptively advertised as being eco-friendly, he said.
SBC and the Business-NGO Working Group include the city of San Francisco; Whole Foods Market of Austin, Texas; computer supplier Dell Inc. of Austin; and managed care organization Kaiser Permanente of Oakland, Calif.
We're looking at entire lifecycle, Eller said. We look at production of biomass, based on sustainable agricultural practices, soil preservation, use of pesticides, other fertilizers, and other biomass being grown.
We look pretty much across the board.
Corn remains the dominant bioplastic feedstock, but other sources are coming into the marketplace, including potatoes, sugar cane, trees and switchgrass.
According to the groups, their specifications for compostable biobased food-service ware or BioSpecs being introduced in Chicago will provide a framework for corporate buyers to assess the sustainability of products during three life-cycle stages: biomass production, manufacturing, and end of product life.
Manufacturers can claim recognition for bio-based products at gold, silver and bronze levels by achieving selected criteria in each stage of the cycle.
SBC and the Business-NGO group are working on a labeling requirement for certain bio-based products that can be composted, but that would otherwise contaminate the recycling stream.
The groups envision a future where homeowners, in addition to having curbside garbage and recycling bins, have a curbside container reserved for food scraps and bioplastic products to be composted at the same facilities that gather yard waste and other biomass items.
For consumers lacking a local composting facility, the products would be able to break down in a backyard compost pile, Eller said.
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