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“Biodegradable”, “degradable” and “compostable” are terms used when describing organic materials breaking down in a specific environment. All terms are often used when defining environmentally friendly products. However, the terms “biodegradable” and “degradable” are very often misused in marketing and advertising of products and materials that are not actually environmentally friendly. This is why many states have passed laws and regulations against the use of those specific terms as well as the reasoning behind the creation of the Green Guides by the FTC. Over the years, BioBag® Americas has adopted these rules and adapted our marketing to meet these regulations. This is why we only use the term “compostable” when describing, marketing, and labeling our products. All of BioBag’s products are third-party certified compostable. Rest assured that BioBag continually follows the legislative happenings throughout the country and evolves our products and packaging to meet all the standards. BioBag products adhere to all the following regulations.

Federal Regulations

Federal Trade Commission: Green Guides

The Green Guides were first introduced in 1992 and have been modified a couple of times since, with the latest revision being released October 2012. The revision included “new-age topics” of environmental certifications and seals, carbon offsets, and renewable energy and materials claims.

Green product resellers and manufacturers, as well as all consumers, should familiarize themselves with these guidelines. A great summary video by the FTC that walks you through the revisions and additions can be seen below.

To review a summary of the Green Guides, please visit their site.

Over the years, BioBag has worked with the FTC various times to ensure that all our packaging claims abide by these guidelines. Be confident that BioBag always operates with full truthfulness and clarity when making any environmental claims. Below is the excerpt from the FTC Green Guides regarding compostability claims.

• Marketers who claim a product is compostable need competent and reliable scientific evidence that all materials in the product or package will break down into — or become part of — usable compost safely and in about the same time as the materials with which it is composted.

• Marketers should qualify compostable claims if the product can’t be composted at home safely or in a timely way. Marketers also should qualify a claim that a product can be composted in a municipal or institutional facility if the facilities aren’t available to a substantial majority of consumers.

This is the reason you will see the specific disclaimers on our packaging that include:
“Appropriate composting facilities may not exist in your area. Please visit www.findacomposter.com to see if facilities are available in your community.” And “All BioBag products may not be suitable for home composting depending on your composting method.”

If you have any questions about BioBag products and our environmental claims, feel free to contact us at any time. info@biobagusa.com or 727-789-1646

State Regulations

California Law: California Restricts Environmental Marketing Claims on Plastic Bags

If your company is conducting business in California, the California Law (SB 1972) should be of great interest. Even if your company does not do business in the state, the law may reinforce the trend nationally for greater clarification for the average consumer regarding biodegradable and compostable product claims.

SEC. 4. Section 42357 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read: 42357. (a) (1) A person shall not sell a plastic bag in this state that is labeled with the term “compostable” or “marine degradable,” unless, at the time of sale, the plastic bag meets the applicable ASTM standard specification( ASTM D 6400-04), as specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 42356. (2) Compliance with only a section or a portion of a section of an applicable ASTM standard specification does not constitute compliance with paragraph (1). (b) Except as provided in subdivision (a), a person shall not sell a plastic bag in this state that is labeled with the term “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “decomposable,” or any form of those terms, or in any way imply that the bag will break down, fragment, biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or other environment.

SECTION 1. Section 42358 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read: 42358. (a) A city, a county, or the state may impose civil liability in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500) for the first violation of this chapter, one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the second violation, and two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the third and any subsequent violation.

More info on California Law (SB 1972).

San Francisco Checkout Bag Ordinance

The City and County of San Francisco amended Chapter 17 of the Environment Code, extending the plastic checkout bag ban to include all retail stores on 10/1/2012 and all food establishments starting on 10/1/2013. The Checkout Bag Ordinance also requires a charge on allowed checkout bags (compostable bags, recycled paper bags, or reusable bags). To learn more about the ordinance and acceptable products such as BioBag, visit San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Minnesota: Minneapolis Yard Waste Prohibition

With the start of the 2012 Yard Waste season, Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling banned the collection of plastic yard waste bags as required by Minnesota Statute 115A.931(c). In accordance with state law and City policy, residents who bag their yard waste must put the yard waste out for pickup in compostable plastic bags, Kraft paper bags (no conventional plastic bags), or reusable containers that are approximately 33 gallons in size, no less than 26 inches in height, and have sturdy handles. See the Minnesota Solid Waste & Recycling site for more information.

Minnesota: Standards for Labeling Plastic Bags

Much like the California law, Minnesota implemented regulations regarding biodegradable and compostable labeling on products in January 2010. As required by Minnesota Statute 325E.046, a plastic bag labeled “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or any form of those terms may not be offered for sale by a manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler in the State of Minnesota. Additionally, a plastic bag labeled “compostable” may not be offered for sale unless the bag meets the ASTM Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics (D6400) and is labeled as such on each bag. See the State of Minnesota Revisor of Statutes site for more information.

Texas: Houston Biodegradable Bag Ordinance

The City Council on September 2, 2009, approved an ordinance amending Chapter 39, Article IV, of the Houston Code of Ordinances, Collection Services. This change requires residents to use “compostable bags” for City collection of green organic material. Residents are reminded that the organic material must be in compostable bags bearing the City of Houston logo. See the City of Houston site for more information and where to purchase Houston approved BioBags.

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