Eco Terms & Definitions
As an industry leader in Canada, GT French recognizes responsibility for our environment. We consider it necessary to preserve natural resources in order to have a healthy future for our next generations. Our mission is to introduce environmentally-friendly products to our customers as alternative choices. The green products are recyclable, compostable and made from recycled materials and natural resources. But to make this as effective as possible – it’s important we all know the difference!
A compost heap is when you take organic materials and leave it to decompose, which then creates fertilizer for your soil. Composting is a process of recycling organic waste in a way that allows it to be reused for something else.
When it comes to packaging, compostable means something a bit different. Typically, in packaging and food service compostable is what a product is called… if it can be composted when entered into an industrial composting facility. This is a very important difference. Compostable products do not always biodegrade naturally in a landfill. They need the right conditions, conditions that are often only found in industrial compost facilities. Compostable products will take much longer to break down if in a landfill, especially an “air locked” landfill where there will be no oxygen.
Compostable products are great for the environment, but it is important to make sure that your business and your city has the proper waste management processes in place. Make sure that your compostable waste is going to a compost facility.
Something is “biodegradable” if it can be disintegrated by bacteria, fungi, or some other biological process. Biodegradation is nature breaking things back down into their core components. Plastic will break down into carbon dioxide, water, and a few other things.
The important distinction however is that lots of things are biodegradable, with enough time. Plastics in particular are known to take decades or even centuries to break down naturally, but they will break down. So, technically speaking, they are biodegradable. Even diapers, notorious for lasting a long time in land fills, will break down eventually.
When a packaging/food service company says that their product is biodegradable, all they really mean is that it will eventually break down when placed in a land fill. The key, however, is to take note of how long it takes for the product to biodegrade. Some products degrade in months, while others take years. When shopping for green products, the less time for biodegradation the better.
Degradable items don’t have living organisms as a crucial part of the breakdown process. Degradable bags cannot be classed as biodegradable or compostable. Instead, chemical additives used in the plastic allow the bag to break down quicker than a standard plastic bag usually would.
Essentially bags touted as ‘degradable’ are definitely not beneficial, and can even be worse for the environment! Degradable bags that disintegrate just become tinier pieces of microplastic quicker, and still pose serious threats to marine life. Microplastics enter the food chain lower down, getting eaten by smaller species and then continuing to make their way up the food chain as these smaller species are consumed.
Sustainable sourcing means buying goods from suppliers who adhere to a code of practice that reduces the social, economic, and environmental impacts of production, processing, and distribution. Environmental criteria include soil stewardship, nutrient management, agrochemical use, biodiversity enhancement and protection, and water. Social criteria are composed of human rights, worker conditions, social protection, employment relations, human development and social dialogue. Management criteria include economic viability, sustainable management, and supply chain responsibilities. Ethics criteria include no forced or child labour, prevention of corruption and compliance with legislation.
Paper production uses vast amounts of air, water and energy resources. The paper industry, which is still dominated by virgin fiber products, is the 4th largest generator of greenhouse gas emissions and the largest user of industrial process water. The good news is, many paper products such as office paper and corrugated boxes can be recycled five to seven times. Look for products containing recycled material, made post-consumer material to divert valuable fiber from the landfill and require no new trees.
The symbol is designed for use on products and packages. Now consumers, composters, waste haulers and officials can now easily distinguish those plastic products designed to biodegrade quickly, completely and safely, when composted in well-run municipal and COMMERCIAL facilities. No plastic residues will be left behind to destroy the value of the finished compost.
“PFAS” is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS don’t easily break down, and they can persist in your body and in the environment for decades. But mounting research links PFAS to a wide range of health problems. Studies of the best-known PFAS, called PFOA and PFOS, show links to kidney cancer and testicular cancer, as well as endocrine disruption in humans.
PLA – Polylactic Acid. A plant based plastic and meets ASTM standards for compostability. Plantware cutlery is compostable in COMMERCIAL compost facilities but not in your home backyard compost.
CPLA vs. PLA
PLA is a biodegradable plastic derived from renewable starch resources such as corn or sugarcane. CPLA is a crystallized PLA which is stronger and withstands higher temperatures. Both PLA and CPLA are sustainably produced and 100% COMMERCIALLY biodegradable and compostable. Both PLA and CPLA cannot be recycled and can contaminate the recycling stream.
Depending on the extent of UV and oxygen exposure, and ambient temperature, oxo-biodegradable plastics visually disappear in as little as two months, although the process can take up to a year and a half. These bags will not degrade in a landfill and therefore will not generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. They cannot be composted, but they can be recycled just like other polyethylene bags. The big advantage is a reduction in all those bags that end up fluttering from trees or floating in the ocean.