Blog Post 17: Bioplastic = eco-packaging?

Labels for bioplastic

Last year, Greenpeace Nederland launched a contest for the “most useless packaging” (article in Dutch). I love it!!! It forces, in a funny way, companies to look better at their packaging. The winner is a paprika, single packed, with a “bio-packaging” which couldn’t be recycled…

Even if you can recycle it (such as paper), packaging is usually not ecological. Don’t forget the amount of energy and water needed to produce (or recycle) the packaging and bring it to the final user! (That’s why Recycle comes after Refuse in the “5R of zero waste”).

The only exception could be the use of packaging to avoid food spillage. For example, it seems that cucumber conserve much longer if wrapped in plastic… however (sorry, for being critical…) this probably applies for vegetables who needs to travel for a while. If you get vegetable which are very fresh from the farmer close to your city, it will probably not get bad before you eat it.

So, what is bioplastic?

Bioplastic are packaging which are BIOBASED, or (OR not AND!!!) BIODEGRADABLE.

Biobased: “The term ‘biobased’ means that the material or product is (partly) derived from biomass (plants). Biomass used for bioplastics stems from e.g. corn, sugarcane, or cellulose.» (EB).

So, it can still contain plastic!

Biodegradable: “Biodegradation is a chemical process during which microorganisms that are available in the environment convert materials into natural substances such as water, car bon dioxide, and compost (artificial additives are not needed). The process of biodegradation depends on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), on the material and on the application.”(EB)

So, yes, you read it well…you can have “biodegradable” bioplastics which can only be degraded in special conditions (so if they are not degraded in dedicated industrial conditions, they will have the same environmental impact as “conventional plastic”!).

Different type of Bioplastics, biobased and/or biodegradables. As you can see, you can have biodegradable material made from fossil resources (and the other way around). (EB)

What to look for?

ORIGIN: Fossil resource (source of what we call plastic), versus renewable resources (biobased plastic).

WASTE: environmental pollution versus biodegradable material.

How do I know it is BIOBASED?

Based on the percentage of renewable raw materials (% Bio-based), the product can be certified as one-star-bio-based, two-star-bio-based, three-star-bio-based or four-star-bio-based.

Source: EB

How do I know it is BIODEGRADABLE?

There are not (yet) international labels. The OK Compost label is used in Belgium (below, Left) and the “Seeding” label (Below, right) is used in Europe. At the end of this document, there is a lot of national and international certifications for composting.

OK compost or “Seeding”: it means that it can be composted in the INDUSTRIAL green-waste (Belgium: the one they pick up at your door or you bring to the container park), BUT NOT in your own compost!!!!

To be degraded, it needs a certain temperature for a certain amount of time.

OK Compost Home: If you want to compost in your own compost, you need the look for the specific label: “OK Compost Home”.

So what do i do with my bioplastic?

Summary on how to dispose bioplastic (Belgium).
Source: OVAM and EB

I hope this helps you to understand bioplastic and to sort them appropriately 😉

Blog post 4: What is zero waste?

Home-made bags for fruit/vegetable.
TIP: if you do different size, use different color when sewing the top; so you can easily recognize the different sizes.

Did you follow the blog since the beginning? Did you succeed to integrate something in your daily live? Don’t forget: it is good to be motivated, but don’t try to change everything at once! Do small changes that you find easy. The rest will follow later.

How much waste do you have per week?  Do you know that if you have 1 big garbage bag per week (60L), you produce 3 120 liter waste per year?

Some families (with kids: Bea Johnson, the “famille zero dechet”, “zero carabistouille” and probably many others) have 0,5 liters (yes, a small jar!) waste per YEAR?

We are not there yet: we have about 500L (30L every 3 weeks); so, there is still work to do. I hope this blog will help me too 😉.

If you do miss a challenge this week: then look into your garbage; which kind of waste do you have most?

 This week I’ll not give you extra recipes, but let’s understand the zero waste.

Do you know the 5 rules of zero waste?

It’s quite easy concepts; but the difficult part is the practice. You have to apply them in the same order as written here below.

REFUSE

REDUCE

REUSE

RECYCLE

ROT THE REST

First REFUSE what you don’t need: Someone gives you a publicity or a flyer, you get a plastic “made in China” toy for free when buying 2 boxes of cookies (oh, yes… of course you don’t buy cookies anymore… 😉), or receive a packed cookie with your coffee…. The most difficult to do is to say “no thanks, I don’t need it”.

If I have to buy toothpaste or sun protection cream (yes, I don’t make it myself (yet)…), there is often a “present” for free (day cream that I’ll never use, timer to time when we brush our teeth). I either wait that the action passed, or refuse the “present”.

One evening, I decided to e-mail all company who were sending us publicity by “addressed mail” by post, to tell them that I don’t want their mail. It worked!!!

If you can’t refuse, try to REDUCE: for example, give away clothes you never use or some of the so many toys from the kids, reduce the number of cleaning products.

I’m happy that I don’t like shopping … because if I would hang around in shops, I would be more tempted to buy.

Last month we sold some of our toys at a flea market with 3 friends. We had so much fun, we earned money and made some free space in our house! In Antwerp, you also have different place where you can give away good material to people in need: “in de buurt” or “Moeder voor moeders”. There is maybe something similar in your city? Otherwise, in Belgium, you can bring it to big second hand shops: “les petits riens”, “opnieuw & Co”, the “kringloopwinkel”,…

If you couldn’t refuse or reduce, you can still try to REUSE:  don’t throw away all plastic containers  but keep them  to reuse them for food, to craft at school or to put all the “treasures” that your children are finding…).

Why not to start with reusable tissues (when you don’t have a bad cold) and table napkin? Did you think about reusable batteries instead of single use? If you do go to a zero-waste shop or bio shop, you might fill in reusable bottle with shampoo, soap and cleaning products that you don’t/can’t make.

If you can sew, you can make new clothes from the one you never use; or bags for kids to go swimming,… You can use your grand-mother curtains to make reusable shopping bags for vegetable and fruits (see the picture on top: my non-professionally home-made bags). Or just buy reusable bags.

What you have left (should not be much anymore), hopefully you can RECYCLE. But don’t forget that the process of recycling is also requiring energy! I also thought, wrongly, that recycle would be first step. But it makes sense to use it as a “last solution”.

Check at the container park close by your home/work; you will be surprise of all the things you can recycle! In Mortsel (nearby Antwerp), they recycle plastic bags and all kind of hard/soft plastic!

It is easier to sort if you make some place close to where the waste is produced. If you have to cross the entire house, or go to the end of your garden… it will ended in your kitchen/living/cellar for some time, then you will get irritated to have it at the wrong place and you might throw it away in the normal garbage.

Last but not least: ROT. All what you can compost, try to compost it. The pioneer of zero waste (Bea Johnson) explains different techniques on her blog. Nowadays, you can find exactly what fits you: cheap/costly, small or big, for garden or window sill,… and you’ll need to buy less ground or fertilizer for your plants!

Good luck!

Anali

PS: If you liked my post, don’t hesitate to “like” it, and to share it to friends and family!