Biodegradable or Not Biodegradable? That’s the Question!

Appearances aren’t always what they seem. With thousands of products available on store shelves begging for a consumer’s attention, manufacturers and advertisers go to great lengths to bring their goods from your blurred peripheral vision to your focal point. “Gluten free!” shouts one product to consumers with wheat sensitivity. “Half the Fat!” boasts another to dieters. “Heart Healthy!” proclaims a cereal box, and “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!” touts a diet pill. The question is, do these products really live up to their claims?

That’s a question that’s on the mind of Californians when it comes to the debate of biodegradable plastic bottles. According to an October 2011 article in Resource Recycling, the state has filed a lawsuit against ENSO Plastics, Aquamantra and Balance Plastics for claiming their plastic bottles are biodegradable. Read the full article at http://resource-recycling.com/node/2204. While ENSO stands behind their assertion, saying their plastic bottles will biodegrade under natural conditions, testing has shown otherwise.

How does this debate impact the environment? First, false environmental marketing damages public trust and opinion regarding eco-friendly merchandise and discourages the consumer from buying “greener” products. Second, “biodegradable” plastics that are mingled with the recycling stream but do not meet specific industry guidelines contaminate the end-products.

Should we throw the baby out with the bath water? Let’s hope not. The great strides “greener” industries have made to support global sustainability are having significant, positive effects on our world. The public mindset is changing, as consumers continue to make more eco-friendly choices in the marketplace. Let’s not let one bad apple ruin the barrel. All purchases should be evaluated—whether it’s for a snack bar that claims to have fewer calories, a chip bag promising no trans-fats are included, or a plastic bottle that’s imprinted with chasing arrows.

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