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Green Packaging and related environmental issues are important factors in keeping our country safe, clean and efficient. We hope the below information will be helpful to explain and define the four basic types of green packaging: source reduction, biodegradable, compostable and recycled.

Source Reduction

Reduce is the first of the three R’s in the phrase "Reduce, Reuse & Recycle". It is doing the same, or in some cases more, with less. Our SMART TECH BAGS are the only bags manufactured with 100% renewable energy from sources like wind and solar power. Our eco-conscious line is fully recyclable, completely non-toxic. This film has 3 times the impact strength and twice the tensile strength of traditional LDPE allowing up to 30% reduction in plastic with equal or superior performance.  SMART TECH BAGS are the perfect blend of technology and source reduction. The EPA estimates that 55 million tons of municipal solid waste was source reduced in the United States in 2000. They also go on to state that using less material in the manufacture of items will dramatically decrease waste. In 1977 the average 2 liter soda bottle weighed 68 grams. Today the average is 58 grams which means that 250 million pounds of plastic has been kept out of the waste stream.


Biodegradable / Compostable

It is easy to become confused on green packaging terms and how they affect your packaging. The definitions written by the ASTM (American Standards for Testing Materials) are listed below. But most importantly is what the average consumer thinks these terms mean. The American Chemistry Council did a study on this exact topic. They concluded that most people feel a product is biodegradable if it is able to break down naturally (on its own) in 1 year or less and leave nothing behind, or completely disappear. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has a very similar view on a biodegradable definition. They state that the “…materials should break down in a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.”

It is very important to get the facts on products that make a biodegradable claim. What are the conditions necessary for biodegradation to occur? There are some foamed polystyrene products on the market right now that are claiming they will biodegrade in a landfill environment.  According to the FTC however, materials degrade very slowly in landfills. Modern landfills are designed, according to law, to keep out sunlight, air and moisture. This helps prevent pollutants from the garbage from getting into the air and drinking water. We offer a specialized line of products which are truly biodegradable. If you are buying biodegradable packaging products, request a certificate of conformance from the manufacturer.

Compostable product claims are another popular topic. The American Chemistry Council surveyed consumers to find out their definition of compostable. Their study sited that most respondents felt that compostable items can be put back into the ground to make soil, mulch or fertilizer that can be used in a garden or around the home. They also go on to state that the chief attribute of compostable materials is that the decomposition is beneficial to the earth which stands in opposition to their biodegradable beliefs that materials simply disappear completely. The ASTM also has a definition for compostable plastic products which some municipalities have mandated as their rule and guideline that packaging must meet. The ASTM D6400 definition is lengthy and very specific. It covers such points as time frames for decomposition and left over materials acceptable. You could find the entire ASTM D6400 definition on their website and read all the pages, but if you are looking for compostable products, we would recommend you request a certificate of conformance from the manufacturer. We offer a specialized line of products which are truly compostable.

Recycled Content

The Federal Trade Commission defines recycled content materials as materials that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream. Recycled content can be broken into two categories - post consumer and pre-consumer, (which is sometimes referred to as post industrial). Post consumer content, as its name implies, is material that has been used by consumers. Examples are clear plastic water and soda bottles made from PET that carry the #1 recycle symbol. Pre-consumer or post industrial is scrap that is generated during the normal manufacturing process that is recycled back into its raw material state.

We have also begun a very successful program that utilizes pre-consumer and post-consumer PE (polyethylene) material for some of our select flexible packaging products This recycled content mainly consists of plastic milk jugs that have been reclaimed and recycled back into usable raw materials for our bag production.

post recycled contentIn terms of post industrial recycled content, we has always used our own scrap. We have a very sophisticated system that captures our trim scrap and grinds it to be recycled back into its original raw material state. Once in this state it is used again in conjunction with virgin and in certain instances, post consumer raw material.

The EPA states “There’s more to recycling than setting out your recyclables at the curb. In order to make recycling economically feasible, we must buy recycled products and packaging. When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured and marketed as new products. Buying recycled has both economic and environmental benefits. Purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled materials saves resources for future generations.”



recycling chartA very simple definition of recycling is the reprocessing of old or used materials into new products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste that is headed for a landfill. They cite that in 1999 recycling efforts diverted 64 million tons of material from landfills and incinerators. Today the US recycles 33% of its waste which is nearly double of what it was 15 years ago.

Most notably, the recycling of PET plastic products, which carry the #1 symbol, has grown significantly. The EPA estimates that 31% of such material is now recycled. 

Other types of plastics are also on the rise with recycling programs. According to the American Chemistry Council, many communities throughout the country are expanding their recycling programs to include more types of plastic. In our own community here in Upstate New York, recycling programs exist for #1, #2 and #3 plastics. Check with your own municipality for a complete listing of materials that may be accepted.

Sustainable Packaging Initiatives

The EPA defines sustainability as the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. There is no question that sustainability efforts have become a part of everyday life, whether one realizes it or not. Recycling, reducing, recycled content and sustainable packaging like compostable products which are covered here are all examples of sustainability programs within our industry, but sustainability is not just confined to the foodservice disposables industry. The automotive industry with its fleet of hybrid vehicles is an excellent example of sustainability in action. The apparel industry, building materials industry, food industry and nearly every other industry that uses natural resources has some sort of sustainability initiative. The EPA has dedicated a very large section of their website to this subject matter that includes every day tips for the average person from the science and technology emerging that promotes sustainability.

It is important to stay informed when it comes to the environment, as great strides are being made toward sustainability in many aspects of life. No market is exempt from these strides toward doing more with less. It is equally important that you stay informed as there is, and will continue to be, a great deal of misinformation and false claims made regarding some product’s or service’s "environmentally friendliness." Get the facts and do the research to substantiate those claims.

For our part we hope we have provided you with enough facts as necessary to describe our green packaging initiatives and product offerings. If you have questions or concerns, please contact one of our packaging professionals.





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