The burden of bioplastics.

Author:Frost, Calvin
Position::LETTERS FROM the Earth
 
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Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) has just completed its first edition of the Pressure Sensitive Label Waste Management Report. It's a summary of where waste is generated in our supply chain, the complexity of logistics and packaging, and the difficulty of developing a comprehensive, "one size tits all: solution: very daunting, to say the least. The report touches one aspect that I have written about in colloquial terms but never referred to in a more formal fashion: EPR, Extended Producer Responsibility. While the broad implications of EPR are a long way off, we are beginning to see more advocacy for making manufacturers responsible for what they produce, from cradle to cradle. As Scott Mouw, recycling director for the State of North Carolina says, "We can't get to the top of the mountain staving on the road we're on now" I think he right and I have urged in countless columns that the company that manufactures take responsibility for solving byproduct generation. Hence, the OEM is responsible for a solution for the matrix that is generated by the converter. And, the converter is responsible for providing a solution for spent liner that is generated by the end user. And, so on, through the value chain. We are seeing a groundswell that supports EPR from organizations like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, the Packaging Association of Canada, and others. So take heed as change is in the wind.

Extender Producer Responsibility is a great introduction to what I call the "burden of bioplastics." The folks who create these friendly materials have actually created a very complex end-of-life problem. Let me explain.

There is no question that bioplastics will grow substantially during the next ten or twenty years. Manufacturers of these materials are capitalizing on their appeal to consumers, retailers and the entire packaging industry. While this genre of" material is environmentally friendly, the end-of-life scenario causes concern for conventional recyclers and composters because of bioplastics varied end-of-life requirements. Bioplastics are derived from renewable feedstocks like vegetable fats and oils and cornstarch. And some of the chemistries have the added benefit of being able to decompose in natural aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Keep in mind that this category of plastic accounts for less than one percent of the 230 million tons of plastic produced annually. Jim Lunt of Jim...

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