Three plastics industry firms are among the first 11 U.S. companies to receive the Department of Agriculture's new Certified Biobased Product label for their products.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan made the announcements at a bio-based product meeting held March 31 in Glenwillow Ohio, near Cleveland, where 60 products certified under USDA's BioPreferred program were unveiled.
Clear Lam Packaging Inc., NatureWorks LLC and DuPont Co. will be able to use the new labeling for thermoformed produce containers, Ingeo polylactic acid resin and Sorona biodegradable copolyester resin, respectively, said Kate Lewis, deputy manager of the BioPreferred program, in a March 31 telephone interview.
The USDA label, launched in January, indicates a product has been independently certified to meet BioPreferred standards for bio-based content. Certification, which is done according to the ASTM International D6866 standard, typically takes two months, Lewis said.
The BioPreferred program was created under the 2002 federal farm bill as a means to increase the purchase and use of bio-based products by the U.S. government. Congress reauthorized and strengthened the program in the 2008 farm bill to further promote the widespread sale of bio-based products in the U.S. The program will go for reauthorization again in 2012.
The USDA estimates there are 20,000 bio-based products currently being manufactured in the United States.
We're proud to achieve this important distinction as it will bring greater clarity to the marketplace and spur more leading product manufacturers and consumers to embrace materials that reduce adverse environmental impacts, James Sanfilippo, Clear Lam's president and CEO, said in a March 31 news release.
According to Clear Lam, the thermoformed containers are produced from over 93 percent plant-based bioplastics derived from Ingeo PLA, along with ingredients that add performance characteristics such as enhanced impact and temperature resistance. The materials are part of Clear Lam's Project EarthClear program, which replaces petroleum-based plastics with bio-based materials.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. uses the Clear Lam thermoformed produce packaging for its private-label Marketside brand.
In addition to the thermoformed produce containers that will carry the new USDA label, Clear Lam has applied for BioPreferred certification for four of its flexible and rigid packaging lines for condiments, salty snacks and dairy products such as cottage cheese, Clear Lam spokeswoman Mary Brophy said in a March 31 telephone interview.
All 25 grades of Ingeo plant-based resin will carry the Certified Biobased Product label, Steve Davies, global marketing director for NatureWorks LLC in Minnetonka, Minn., said by phone.
Our focus has been decidedly on the commercial market, on folks like Clear Lam and their customers like Wal-Mart and Stonyfield [Farm], and what's been lacking in the commercial market has been one [bio-based certification] label from an authoritative, third-party source.
Everybody gets the bio-based value proposition but doesn't know how to communicate it. This will be the analogue to the USDA organic label on food. To us, this says that bio-based, going forward, is going to be the expectation, not the exception [in materials], he said.
Officials at Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont were unavailable for comment.
The Agriculture Department has designated 5,100 bio-based products for preferred purchasing by federal agencies. With the launch of the Certified Biobased Product label, the BioPreferred program now comprises two parts: a procurement preference program for federal agencies and a voluntary labeling initiative for commercial marketing of bio-based products.
According to the BioPreferred program website, products have to meet the minimum bio-based content for their category under the federal procurement portion of the BioPreferred program.
If there is no specific category for a product, it must be 25 percent bio-based, unless the applicant receives an alternative minimum-content allowance.
Mature-market products that are excluded from the federal procurement preference program are also excluded from BioPreferred certification and labeling.
Applicants to the BioPreferred program are required to submit products for testing by an accredited laboratory.
From bioplastics to plant-based cleaners, from industrial lubricants and construction products to personal-care items, this ever-growing list of bio-based products helps create jobs in rural communities by adding value to agricultural commodities and can reduce our dependence on imported oil, Merrigan said.