Bioplastic. Biodegradable. Bio-equivalent. Drop-in. Oxo-Degradable. Bio-based. Compostable. Plant-based.
Are you exhausted yet or at least thoroughly confused? We get it. These terms get thrown around interchangeably quite a bit, but they don’t mean the same things. Let’s call this #EpicConfusionForTheConsumer.
First, let’s talk about what a bioplastic actually is.
When you see something labelled as a “bioplastic”, that simply means that plastic material contains at least 25% bio-based or “plant-based” content from natural, renewable sources, most commonly sugarcane or corn using today’s available technology. The source of the renewable content is different depending on the type of bioplastic and the region in which it’s produced, but the percentage is the same. The remaining 75% can be any concoction of petroleum-based additives and chemicals that make the plastic more stretchy or heat resistant, and very often, cheaper to produce.
25%. Have you ever passed an exam with only 25%? It feels more like those nachos where you can see every single shred of cheese and the bottom chips are totally dry and desperately unhappy. 25% is not the result we’re striving for in bioplastics. Full transparency, though, we offer more than just bioplastics, and each of those materials has their own set of criteria.
Most importantly, we decided years ago that we’re committed to making products and packaging with the highest possible plant-based content to meet the required performance characteristics, but also eliminate the use of any additives that have been identified as being potentially hazardous to human health or the environment. What that means is no matter the plant-based percentage, we haven’t filled it up with nasty junk, like BPAs, phthalates and phyto-estrogens. And we’ve learned not to assume everyone else is committed to doing this.
We also do our best to speak everyday English while we’re at it. You’ll see us use the term “bioplastic” from time to time when we’re truly referring to a regulated bioplastic material. But we’ll more often say “bio-based” material when we’re referring to more than just bioplastics and need to be appropriately science-y. The bottom line is that the source of our bio-based material is plants, so to keep things simple, you’ll hear us most often call our materials “plant-based”.
There’s also a ton of active research to expand the sources of plant-based materials used for bioplastics to include agricultural waste and even CO2 re-capture. Our products and packaging are not dependent on one type of plant-based material, and we continue to tweak our proprietary recipes to incorporate the latest scientific developments.
We’ve shared our thoughts on hazardous chemicals here.
And on biodegradability and compostability here.