Some Bioplastics and “Green” Links

Because I approach this blog as a form of non-traditional education, I follow the industry closely through twitter, linkedin and other social networking outlets. When I come across a question, I search the web, scientific journals and printed literature for answers.

Tonight I want to share some of the sites I have used as resources in my quest for understanding of sustainability, greener plastics and current issues. This is only a partial list of the many sites I could recommend (and will write up in a future post). Please feel free to add sites that I have not included in the comments. This site was created by the son of the man who wrote the book on Green Plastics. I’m not sure how involved E.S. Stevens is still involved in the site, but I trust everything posted on as being gospel. I have actually written posts about how much I appreciated what was written on their site. A must read resource. A wiki created as an accompaniment to the book mentioned above. The sister site of

Greener Package One night I was frustrated because the environmental blogs I was following didn’t have any industry input. Most were from the armchair critic that did not understand the full scope of environmental, financial and regulatory impact of making packaging choices.

Greener Package has a wealth of information, especially in the forums. Many of the active members work in the biopolymers or packaging industries and they will have very intelligent debates about everything from recyclability, biodegradation, current waste management infrastructure etc.

Greeneon – I recently found this website when browsing people in the biodegradable plastics group on LinkedIn. It is run by current and former Graduate Students at my current grad school, University of Massachusetts -Lowell. The focus of their site is biodegradable plastics.

Our interest is to share more and more knowlege of biodegradable plastics around the world and explore novel applications out of a variety of biodegradable plastics that are derived from natural as well as conventional petroleum based resources. We strongly believe that the use of “Green Plastics” would benefit the society and help in contributing towards a green revolution.

Green Packaging Woman A relatively new blog focused on women in the packaging industry. Some of the posts are also focused on products made from recycled materials.

Sustainable Plastics? –  The site for a project of the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Addresses sustainable plastics and their lifecycle as well as issues with currently available traditional plastics.

Society of Plastics Engineers – Pretty self explanatory.


A Facebook Recycling Game

I remember a time when facebook was to connect with friends not to play “social” games. The latest game I have heard of, is a recycling game created by Greenopolis, a company founded to reward the population for recycling.

In the game, called oceanopolis, the user is trapped on an island paradise and must collect and turn in recyclables on the island. As they collect items the user is educated about recycling, earns points and can purchase items.

I tried the game for a few minutes and found it even less appealing than most regular games of this type. Where are these recyclables coming from? Are they washing up on shore perfectly intact? Someone should find who is dumping all this trash into the ocean and jail them. Seriously why am I going around an island clicking my mouse randomly on magically appearing item?

Perhaps some will use the game for entertainment, but I suspect  that people actually using the game will be doing so to collect greenopolis points. These points are reedemable for a variety of discounts or coupons from restaurants, theaters and retail establishments.

Have you tried the game? Do you like it? Let me know.


Two concepts of Bioplastics – Degradability and Renewability

Bioplastics are interesting materials for two reasons:

  1. They can reduce our dependence on petroleum in their production by using renewable feedstocks such a corn, sugar cane, chicken feathers, algae, cashews etc.
  2. They can be formulated in ways that allow the material to degrade. Allowing for the plastics to lose the permanence for which they have often been scorned.

Both these concepts are important in the goal of environmental sustainability. An ideal that does not “save the earth” but rather preserves a more pleasant environment for future generations of humans and wildlife.

Bioplastics are not perfect. As useful materials they are still in their infancy. Future materials and their applications show no limits and someday we might rely on them as much as we do traditional plastics.

The Society of Plastics Engineers recently published a short web article about Bioplastics and Global Sustainability. It discusses some recent reports about the future of the market for bioplastics, and some of the challenges posed by the structure of bioplastic molecules. My favorite part of the article however was this figure showing different traditional and bioplastics in a scheme of degradable versus non-degradable and renewable versus non-renewable. It is a demonstration that not all renewable plastics degrade and that some traditional plastics do.


What does “Green” even mean?



As I was packing my lunch today I noticed something on the packaging of the hummus I was using. Next to the logo and title was a stamp that said “New! Earth Friendlier Pack” and “More info at”.

I was curious, the tub was a simple transparent plastic. I didn’t notice anything unusual about it. I wanted to know what they had changed.

So I went to the website, as instructed. I couldn’t find the promised information. So I searched for it on Google.

The information was there, buried in the News section. Sabra was making . . . → Read More: What does “Green” even mean?


Stonyfield’s new plant based yogurt cup



Several years go I picked up a book called Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. I loved that book.It was about how environmentally responsible business can make a profit while being good for your body and for the environment.

The author, Gary Hirshberg, is the CEO and founder of Stonyfield farms, an organic yogurt company based in New Hampshire, USA. We have always been happy with the quality and flavor of their products and are proud of the success of a NH company.

The book was published in 2008 and at the . . . → Read More: Stonyfield’s new plant based yogurt cup


Using Nano Technology to Indicate Freshness


I have a fear of eating food that has gone bad. I’m constantly checking for expiry dates. A company is working on a device that could help indicate a product’s freshness in a much more observable way.

JP Labs (Middlesex, NJ) is working on a product called Nano-Indis. It is a smart packaging with self-reading indicators. The indicator changes by destroying nanostructures allowing the message to change rather abruptly after an appropriate time or process.

Some monitoring conditions in which the labels would work:

Time Temperature (is food done yet) Time-temperature (shelf-life) Freeze (Did product accidentally freeze) Thaw/Defrost (Frozen . . . → Read More: Using Nano Technology to Indicate Freshness


Bioplastic Standards


all the things you can put in the compost bin- CTBarimoore

A few months ago I wrote a post about the federal regulations regulating marketing claims of “green plastics”. This post only briefly touched on the testing standards surrounding these claims.

Last week, after hosting a great Webinar titled A New Life for Plastics: End-of-life Solutions in the Age of Greener Materials, published an article about the lack of standards in the bioplastics industry titled Improved Standards Needed for Bioplastic Claims.

With a lack of standards that match how facilities are really . . . → Read More: Bioplastic Standards


Increase the Success of Your Office Recycling Program


Workplaces are starting to pay attention to sustainability and want to develop a “green” workplace. While many are addressing this by reducing paper output and encouraging reuse of coffee mugs, many are putting recycling programs in place.

How do we increase the rate at which employees actually use these office recycling bins? Here are a few ideas I have, comment below if you have any ideas I have missed.

Label recycling bins clearly with what may be placed in the bin. Many office recycling programs accept different materials than the surrounding communities curbside pickups. Eliminate confusion, . . . → Read More: Increase the Success of Your Office Recycling Program


Greener products from Traditional Materials


Plastics from renewable resources are not for everyone. Bioplastics do not cover a full scope of properties yet and are not appropriate for many high end applications. In addition, material changes may be too expensive to undertake. Product changes take significant time and money.

There are ways of improving a product’s ecofootprint without changing to newer materials however. Some of these changes may actually save your company money in energy and material costs.

Renewable resources: Didn’t I just say we were not changing to a biopolymer? Yes, I’m talking about the other kinds of renewable resources, the kind that . . . → Read More: Greener products from Traditional Materials


KFC’s Packaging Efforts



KFC (the restaurant formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) is making an effort to improve the environmental impact of their food packaging. As part of this effort, KFC has been making efforts towards increasing the recycled content of their paperboard product. This is valuable because paper products which have been in contact with food (especially greasy food) can no longer be recycled due to contamination.

Another innovation they are pioneering for the fast food industry is the reusable, recyclable side dish container. The polypropylene (PP) side dishes are microwavable, dishwasher safe, leak resistant and are fully recyclable at the . . . → Read More: KFC’s Packaging Efforts