This mailbag references a July 21 online story (Expert: Consumers confused by terms …).
I agree with Steve Mojo of the Biodegradable Products Institute that consumers are confused by the terminology surrounding bio-based and biodegradable products. I also agree that many companies are equally confused — and occasionally focused on marketing claims to the detriment of clarity. This is exactly why the SPI Bioplastics Council developed definitions for key industry-related terms.
Launched by SPI in 2008, the council's mission is to promote the development of bioplastics as an integral part of the plastics industry. From the beginning, the council's members identified education — both within and outside the plastics industry — as a key focus area. In 2009, the council published a terminology guide to help clear up confusion over the definitions. In brief, the council supports the following descriptions:
c Biodegradable Plastic: A plastic that undergoes biodegradation (a process in which the degradation results from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae) as per accepted industry standards. Accepted industry standard specifications are: ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, ASTM D7081 or EN 13432.
c Bio-based content: Fraction of the carbon content which is new carbon content made up of biological materials or agricultural resources vs. fossil carbon content. Bio-based content is measured following the procedures set by ASTM D6866.
In its most recent education efforts, the council has placed a new emphasis on clarifying bioplastics-related marketing claims concerning degradability and taking a strong stance that product claims must be based on sound science and in line with ASTM International standards and the Federal Trade Commission's “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.”