Today my guest is Brenda Platt, Director of the Sustainable Plastics Initiative, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, and co-director of the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Washington, DC. She has worked 26 years on waste reduction, recycling and composting issues. Today we are talking about complostable bioplastics, made from renewable resources instead of fossil fuels. Brenda is the author of several groundbreaking reports including Beyond 40 Percent: Record-Setting Recycling and Composting Programs and the U.S. EPA’s Cutting the Waste Stream in Half. Her 2000 report for the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Wasting and Recycling in the United States 2000, includes a 10-page zero waste agenda for action. Her 2003 report, Resources up in Flames outlined the economic pitfalls of incineration versus a zero waste approach. Her report, Stop Trashing the Climate, documents that aiming for zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combating climate change. She currently directs ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e project and Sustainable Plastics project and co-chairs the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, a coalition spurring the use of biobased products that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. The Collaborative has developed environmentally sustainability criteria for biobased plastics, and recently released purchasing specs for biobased compostable food service ware. www.sustainablebiomaterials.org
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
All About Bioplastics
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Brenda Platt
Date of Broadcast: November 06, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio, where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world.
We need to talk about this because there are so many toxic chemicals out there in so many places – in the food we eat, the water we drink, even in our bodies from past exposures – that we need to know what to do to make good choices. We need to be able to tell what’s toxic and what’s not, and to choose the less toxic things to have in our homes, how to get those toxic chemicals out of our bodies, and all those kinds of things. It’s a big subject and there’s a lot to learn.
So I’m here every day, Monday through Friday with people from different parts of the whole field of what’s toxic and what isn’t in order to share their information and knowledge with you so that you can make better decisions.
Today, it’s Wednesday, November 6th, 2013, and it’s a beautiful day here in Clearwater, Florida. We’re going to talk about plastics. I actually heard my guest speak about the subject that we’re going to talk about today on a webinar. She explained everything so clearly that I wanted to have her on.
Her name is Brenda Platt. She’s the director of the Sustainable Plastics Initiative, co-chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, and co-director of the non-profit, Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She does a lot of things.
Now, the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, let’s see if I get this right, has developed environmentally sustainable criteria for bio-based plastics. And they recently released a purchasing spec for bio-based compostable food service ware.
So when you see that a label says bio-based plastic, we’re going to learn about what that means today, and what’s the difference between bioplastics and plastics that are made from fossil fuels. And if you are looking at a product made from bioplastics, what kind of criteria should you be considering and looking to see? Is it really bio-based?
Hi, Brenda, thanks for being with me.
BRENDA PLATT: Hi, Debra. It’s a pleasure.
DEBRA: Thank you. Well, first of all, tell us about all these organizations you’re part of.
BRENDA PLATT: Well, the one that butters my bread is the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. We have offices in Minneapolis and D.C. and Portland, Maine. We’re a national organization, we’ve been around since 1974 and we provide research and technical assistance on recycling, zero waste planning, renewable energy and other policies to protect local main streets and other facets of what we call a homegrown economy.
So we have a staffer fighting big-boxed stores like WalMart. We have another staffer who’s working on community-owned internet broadband networks. The overall work that we do is focused on really supporting local economies and healthy communities.
So your topic of healthy community is certainly one of the key criteria of being a healthy community that’s free of toxic. So I’m delighted to be here, joining you.
DEBRA: Absolutely. I totally agree.
BRENDA PLATT: And I’ll just say that I’ve been a huge fan of yours since 1986 when I first read your Non-Toxic Home book.
DEBRA: Oh, my God! Thank you. A lot of my guests say that, that they’ve been familiar with my work for a long time. So I’m very happy to hear that from you because I admire your work as well. When I heard the webinar, you just made it so clear. But of course, I already understood a lot of what you were talking about.
So tell us more about what the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative is doing.
BRENDA PLATT: Yes. The Collaborative is a network of organizations and we’re working together to spur the introduction and use of biomaterials that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. And what we mean by that, let me just say first, what is a biomaterial?
Well, a biomaterial is a material or product that’s made from biomass, let’s say, or what we might call plant matter. So you might have seen corn-based plastics on the market. If you’re lucky enough to be in a community that has food waste collection for composting, a lot of those communities like San Francisco, Seattle have been moving away from Styrofoam, polystyrene, which is one of what I consider a bad plastic from a toxic perspective, to compostable food service for items.
So we’re seeing really the growth of plates and cups and forks and take-out clamshells and things of that nature. That would be an example of a bio-based material. Not all of them are made from corn. Some of them are paper-based. Some of them are made from the waste of sugarcane production. And there’s potato starch. There’s a wide range of materials, plant matter-based materials that can go into these products.
But what we mean by sustainable is that they’re sustainable from the field or forest. So if we’re growing corn, which as we know is a monoculture crop that uses genetically-modified organisms as feedstock and conventional corn-growing uses a lot of toxic herbicides and pesticides, we would like the biomass to be growing sustainably according to certain criteria. And then when it’s manufactured – just because it’s a bio-based plastic, let’s say, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t additives or softeners or plasticizers or other chemicals that might be added to the material to enhance its performance characteristics.
So during the production, you can have chemicals added. And then at the end of the product’s original intended use, we want to make sure there’s an end-of-life recovery option.
DEBRA: We can talk about all of that throughout the show. But let’s just start. I just want to have you introduce yourself to our audience so that they know what organizations you’re working for, and how did you get interested in this subject.
BRENDA PLATT: Good question. I’ve actually been at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for 27 years. I cut my teeth in the organization in the ’80s fighting trash incinerators. There were almost 200 planned around the country. And some of them were built, but most of them were actually defeated. In their stead, we promoted reducing trash, of course, but also we used recycling and composting.
I helped institutional curbside recycling. I documented some of the best programs around the country. Now, we’re helping cities with zero waste planning. And I’m doing a lot of work on composting, particularly, locally-based composting.
The work on plastics is just really, really important now because so much of the plastics that we produce are really for single use products or packaging. And if you look at what we set out of the curb, probably one-third of what we set out of the curb every week as trash is packaging. And a lot of that is plastic.
So one of my recent mottos is single use has got to go. We have to really move away from single use products.
DEBRA: I recently – well, not recently, but some time ago, I have been no longer married and no longer having a husband to take the garbage out. I’m pleased to report that living by myself, I – they usually come and pick up the big garbage can. The city comes and picks it up twice a week. But mine doesn’t get filled twice a week. Mine takes me almost a month before my garbage can is full enough that I’m willing to drag it out to the street and have them pick it up. And I think that’s much, much less waste than most people are producing.
BRENDA PLATT: Yes, and congratulations. That’s good news. It underscores the ability for all of us to reduce our trash. Florida is not exactly leader in this area where you’re based because the state has really embraced new trash incinerators.
But other areas of the country are really passing –I would say really at the local level, which is just very exciting. A number of cities have passed restrictions on the use of Styrofoam, particularly for food service ware.
Seattle is probably the leader in this area. Not only do they ban Styrofoam but they’re in phase 2 of their packaging regulations. They require that all food service ware has to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. And anywhere you go in Seattle, even if you’re buying food at a food truck, you’ll see the recycling bin and the composting bin. And it’s pretty much institutionalized.
So I think it really is important to not only lead by example. There’s a lot people can do on their own, certainly like you, but I think what we really need is also policies at the local level to enforce that, yes.
DEBRA: Totally agree, yes. We need to take a break. But we’re going to talk a lot more about plastics after with my guest, Brenda Platt. I’ll just make it shorter and say that she’s from the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative and that’s at SustainableBiomaterials.org because that’s what we’re talking about today. And I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. And we’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. Today, my guest is Brenda Platt. She’s co-chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative. And you can go to her website at SustainableBiomaterials.org.
And we’re mostly going to be talking about bioplastics. But first, Brenda, could you give us a general overview of plastics? I know that that’s a big question but I’ll tell you a little more about –
BRENDA PLATT: Absolutely!
DEBRA: Yes. When I have been writing and learning about plastics, I found that there were two – basically, there are fossil fuel plastics and there are bio-based plastics. But if you’re looking at plastics that biodegrade, some fossil fuel plastics biodegrade, some don’t. And some bioplastics biodegrade and some don’t.
So if you could just give us a general idea – I think most people are familiar with different types of plastics. If you say Styrofoam, they think of a Styrofoam cup or they know PVC is a pipe. So if you could just tell us which ones are the toxic ones that are made out of fossil fuels that we should be concerned about, if there’s any fossil fuel ones that are less toxic, and then get into which ones are the bio-based ones.
BRENDA PLATT: Absolutely! It might be helpful to actually start with the common dictionary definition of plastics, if you will.
DEBRA: Yes, let’s do that. I really want people to understand.
BRENDA PLATT: If you look up what is plastic, you will find a definition something like, “capable of being molded or shaped into different forms under pressure or heat,” as opposed to non-plastic materials, which must be cut or chiseled.
But chemically, plastics are polymers which mean they’re substances composed of long chains of repeating molecules, which are the monomers. So you have the monomers and you repeat. You get a plastic that’s a polymer, and they’re usually, largely made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. And there can be other elements in there too.
So to have a plastic, you have the conventional fossil fuel-based plastic, as you mentioned, Debra, made from carbon and hydrogen. And then you might have the bio-based plastics. And really, the only difference is that the carbon comes from new sources, renewable sources like plants that are grown every year, renewably every year, whereas fossil fuel is old carbon, dinosaurs, let’s say.
Probably the most widely-used bio-based plastic in the market today is Coke’s Dasani water bottle, single use water bottle. Some are not a big fan of it. But that, the Dasani bottle is made in part from some bio-based material. Not 100%, but made in part.
That bottle is, number one, PET, which is the most commonly collected type of plastic in our Curbside Recycling Programs. If you have a Curbside Collection Program, more than likely, that’s something you can put in.
Now, that P-E-T or PET water bottle is the same as a PET that’s derived 100% from fossil fuel plastics. So it can be recycled like other fuel-based PET, but it is not biodegradable.
And there’s a big difference between something that’s bio-based and something that’s biodegradable.
DEBRA: Yes, explain the difference.
BRENDA PLATT: What’s really interesting is that you can have a product that’s biodegradable that is made from 100% fossil fuel plastics. So the fact that it can biodegrade, which means it’s food for microorganisms basically, eventually, then it doesn’t have to do with where the source of the carbon is coming from, whether the source is new or old. It has to do with the chemical structure, whether it can break down and become food for the microorganisms.
So if you see a product that’s labeled as compostable, it doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s made from 100% plants. And if you see something that says it’s plant-based or bio-based, that could mean it’s made from some plants, but it’s not biodegradable, like the Dasani water bottle.
So it is confusing and I think for the everyday person, if you want to be promoting more composting and more composting for organic materials, and you don’t like Styrofoam takeout containers because you can’t do anything with it when you’re done using it – and like I said in Seattle and San Francisco and other communities that have moved to compostable products like those clamshells – then look for the compostable label. That would be the thing to look for. I think the bio-based label is interesting, but from an end-of-life perspective, it does not indicate that it’s compostable just because it says bio-based.
DEBRA: I think that there’s a natural tendency to think that fossil fuels are not biodegradable in general and that renewable resources in general are biodegradable. And so you think plastic made from fossil fuels versus biomaterials, they’re going to be the same in terms of biodegradability. But they aren’t. When I found that out, that was really a surprise to me.
What is a compostable? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a compostable symbol. What does that look like?
BRENDA PLATT: Well first, let me just say that the Biodegradable Products Institute, so anybody can Google that, they list something like a catalog of 3000 products that meet their Third Party Certified Compostability Process Certification. It used to be a few hundreds, just even two years ago. And now, there are thousands. So this field is really growing.
The Biodegradable Products Institute is an independent third party certifier of products to ensure that they are compostable. And let me just clarify, compostable in a commercial composting facility, not necessarily in somebody’s backyard system.
But I will tell you that the key thing is for a commercial composting facility is that they optimize the conditions for composting. They get it to the right temperature, they have the right moisture, they know how to blend the materials to ensure that the microorganisms are really happy. And we don’t always do that when we do it in our backyard.
But you can. You can do it correctly in your backyard instead of just being a rot pile, if you will. You can actually do active composting.
But the certification, when you see that logo on there that says BPI, certified BPI, being the Biodegradable Products Institute, that indicates that it will break down under optimum composting conditions.
DEBRA: We need to take a break in a second, but I want to ask you. So I’ll ask you the question and you give me the answer after the break. If something is certified compostable, does that mean it’s also non-toxic or could toxic plastics be compostable? That’s the question for after the break.
We’re talking to Brenda Platt. She’s a co-chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, SustainableBiomaterials.org. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. We’ll be back in a minute.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Brenda Platt, co-chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, which is at SustainableBiomaterials.org. And we’re talking today about bioplastics.
Brenda, during the break, I did go to the Biodegradable Plastics Institute website, and I do see that they have a compostable logo. It’s a really tiny picture. But it does say compostable on it and it has a logo that looks like a tree bent over, like an arrow going around to be recycled, and a little leaf on the other side of the circle going around. So that’s something that you can look for and it’s on all kinds of products – basically, the ones made out of plastic like food service ware, films, bags, things like that.
So my question before the break was, are there are any toxic plastics that would be compostable?
BRENDA PLATT: That’s such a great question. Yes, let’s get into the toxic question.
So compostable products that are third party certified, one of the things I advise people whether you’re a hospital or a school and you’re buying these products or an individual like you and me, is to look for that third party certification because to meet that third party certification, the product has to meet three different aspects of a test. And one of them does relate to toxicity.
Now, it may not cover all of the toxic chemicals in the world, but it does cover certain heavy metals and part of the test is that the product that’s made into compost, the compost has to be able to sustain plants.
So let’s say you have a sugarcane-based plate and it’s compostable, it breaks down. But if that plate then is in compost and it won’t allow, let’s say, a tomato plant to seed or germinate because it’s toxic, then it does not meet the standards. So it’s pretty robust.
DEBRA: I like that standard.
BRENDA PLATT: Yes. So if you see a claim that just says compostable or biodegradable, and it’s not third party certified, it’s not going to be as good.
But one thing I really want to emphasize is that these compostable-based products are really replacing a wide range of conventional plastics that have a much more toxic profile. Just the production of fossil fuels, petrochemicals to make our plastics throughout the total lifecycle, involves so many toxic chemicals. And I’m certainly not an expert on that, but I think you asked earlier in the program what are the ones folks should stay away from.
One of the worst is vinyl, PVC, polyvinyl chloride. If you’re familiar with the resin number identification codes that you might see within a chasing arrow symbol that’s very small, that’s number 5. So vinyl is number 5. And that, I think, people should stay away from. It’s the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment. It’s manufacture uses and releases hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, mercury and dioxin, which we know are harmful to communities and the workers who make it.
There was just actually a study that was released a few days ago by the Center for Health Environment and Justice which has a big –
DEBRA: I saw that.
BRENDA PLATT: Yes. And it showed elevated levels of phthalates in Spongebob Squarepants’ vinyl rain ponchos. And the studies were seven times above the Federal Safety Standard.
Vinyl is one of the bad ones. The other one I mentioned several times already is polystyrene, which is number 3, which is Styrofoam. Styrofoam is the expanded foam version of polystyrene but what people don’t know is that polystyrene can look like a clear plastic. If are on a college campus and you go to one of your local campus keg parties and you’re drinking beer in one of those solo cups, the blue, red or yellow cups, those are polystyrene. Polystyrene is produced from styrene, which is a known human neurotoxicant and known animal carcinogen. It was up until a few years ago, a suspected human carcinogen and it was elevated a couple of year ago to reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, which basically means there’s a huge body of evidence now tying it to human cancers.
And we’re eating off of this stuff and we’re letting our kids in the schools eat off of this stuff.
On the positive side, there are dozens of communities that have restricted polystyrene use.
So those are two that I consider among the worst types of polymers, especially when we’re exposing our kids to them. I would say that even number 1, PET, which is what we see in water bottles, that there have been some health issues potentially associated with those. Antimony is a catalyst that use in its product that type of polymer and there has been a number of studies that have shown that in water that’s been on the shelf in those types of water bottles have an order of magnitude higher antimony in them than in natural spring water. And of course, it’s below all considered safety standards but we know often how inadequate our safety standards are. It wasn’t even 20 years ago, it wasn’t widely recognized that bisphenol A could impact – be linked to a whole range of health issues at the parts pavilion levels.
I actually do not let my kids drink out of single use water bottles if I can help it, out of PET, for that reason alone, for the health reasons.
DEBRA: I actually don’t drink out of them at all unless it’s the only source of water. If I’m traveling and I have a choice between tap water and water in a PET bottle, I’ll drink the water in the PET bottle but whenever I can, I’m drinking my water at home or carrying it in a glass bottle because it’s toxic.
BRENDA PLATT: I think there’s been very little study on that issue for the PET, the number one type of water bottle in this country, but the Switzerland Office of Public Health has done some studies, and in Germany, there has been some studies at the university level. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years, it’s more widely recognized as an issue.
DEBRA: I think so too. I think one of the things that I’ve seen over the past 30 years of doing this work, 30-plus years of doing this work, is that there are a lot of things that were not known to be toxic, and then now we know 30 years later that they’re toxic. And we didn’t know that 30 years ago. And so there’s a lot of things that I suspect are going to turn out to be more toxic than people think as the studies come in. But at least I see over the years, this growing body of tests being done and studies, and that we’re finding things out, that even though we know a lot more about what’s toxic now, it’s still in a lot of products, these chemicals are not regulated, and it’s still something we need to watch out for as consumers.
We’re going to talk more about bio-based plastics as a safer alternative when we come back from the break. My guest today is Brenda Platt from the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative. That’s at SustainableBiomaterials.org. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and my guest is Brenda Platt, co-chair of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, and we’re talking about bioplastics today.
Brenda, give us an overview of what are the bioplastics. How do we recognize them? What are their names and what are they made of?
BRENDA PLATT: What a good question. Well, one thing – let me just start by saying that the first plastics were bio-based plastics. A hundred years ago, most of our products and materials were based on plants. Think celluloid film, that’s cut and dried celluloid. So that’s made from – and that’s a plastic. Horn and amber have been used and molded into many different shapes for centuries. Those are probably the oldest, natural plastics.
One of the things I found interesting looking into plastics was this long history of bio-based plastics. Some of them might include ones that might be like natural leather. Gutta Percha is a relative of rubber. It comes from trees native to Malaysia, and it could be shaped by softening over heat and pressed into mold. And it has excellent insulating capabilities. And one of the things it was used for in the mid-1800s was it was used for the first transatlantic cable that was laid.
This gives your listeners some examples of how long we’ve been using bio-based plastics.
Another great example, and I think it was probably the first ubiquitous plastic product was the gramophone record. And the gramophone record was used to make 78R RPMs back in the late 1800s, is in part derived from shellac.
You and I may have heard of shellac but you may not know it’s based on the secretion of a beetle which lives on certain trees in India, Burma and Thailand. Shellac has been harvested since ancient times.
And then, of course, I mentioned celluloid. There has been a whole range of cotton cellulose-based plastics that was first developed in the mid-19th century. And there are some interesting stories there, but really, it wasn’t until after World War II that plastics really became available to the ordinary public. And in fact, after World War II, there were huge queues that formed when the first nylon stocking appeared in British shops after the war. And that of course – what was it, in the ’50s, where Earl Tupper made Tupperware.
And that’s when we really began to see these kinds of plastic use in everyday uses.
Following the 1950s, of course, we had this explosion of fossil fuel-based plastic.
But one of the things I find interest in looking at the bio-based industry today, as I do think the pendulum is swinging back now to bio-based products, with climate change and cities and countries and businesses really taking the lead on reducing the carbon footprint and moving away from fossil fuels. We’re seeing a really skyrocketing interest in bio-based products, which is why with the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, we’re really interested in helping to push that market towards sustainability and non-toxic products.
An example of one bio-based product that I think is really exciting and it gives people a flavor of this emerging new, more modern industry, is a new building block. There are new bio-based building blocks that are being developed. And one company [inaudible 00:42:29] that is doing a new bio-based building blocks, so a whole range of polymers and products based on levulinic acid.
And what levulinic acid is, is they’re hydrolyzing cellulose, which right now, is coming from corncobs, of all things. But they can use other sources of cellulose. And they’re forming levulinic acid to through this process, and it’s showing really broad utility as building blocks of all kinds of chemicals and materials, and think trademark under the Javelin name.
But what I find interesting is that some of the product lines include plasticizers and solvents and polymers. And it’s basically a new molecule that could substitute, for instance, bisphenol A and bad plasticizers which are showing up in the vital products.
So it’s a good solvent. It has low volatility. And so these are the kinds of, I think, what we’re going to see in the near future, these new bio-based chemicals that are more toxic free, have a less carbon footprint because they’re made from renewable carbon and are going to be introduced in some conventional products. But they’re going to overall have a less toxic [cross-talking 00:43:50]
DEBRA: I think that’s where we’re going too. I see that as well. But now, I want to ask you because I’m not a chemist but I think you might be able to answer this question. So in the beginning of the show you said that the plastics whether they’re bio-based or fossil fuel-based, are basically made up of carbon and whatever else. And that it doesn’t matter to the plastic if the carbon comes from a renewable source or a fossil fuel source because fossil fuels are just ancient, renewable resources anyway. So if there are so many toxic chemicals that are coming from fossil fuels that are turned into chemicals, why is it that the renewable counterparts would be less toxic? Do you understand what I’m asking?
If the manmade chemical is, for example, not to name any chemicals, but a chemical that is a chemical formula that doesn’t exist in nature and is toxic and it’s made from fossil fuels, if you were to just replace those fossil fuels in that same chemical with renewable resources for the carbon, would that make that chemical not toxic? Or are these entirely new formulas being made from these renewable resources that would be less toxic?
BRENDA PLATT: Let me first say that I am not a chemist either, so I’m probably not the best person to answer this question but let me take a crack at it anyway. My understanding of this is that –in fact, I think the example, the levulinic acid is probably a good one, the one that’s trademarked under the Javelin name. That’s a new chemical. That’s made from bio-based materials. And that chemical has a lower toxic footprint, if you will.
Now, if you take something like polyvinyl chloride, vinyl or polystyrene, that chemical, in and of itself, is – that polystyrene is produced from styrene. So that chemical has issues and is toxic no matter where the carbon comes from, the nature of that chemical.
DEBRA: That’s what I was asking.
BRENDA PLATT: So I think it really does depends. So if, for instance, the polystyrene industry says, “Okay, we want to move away from using petroleum or natural gas, both fossil fuels, to make polystyrene,” or, “Now, we’re going to make it from corn or sugarcane waste.”
If it’s polystyrene, it still needs to be avoided.
DEBRA: Right. That was the point that I wanted to make.
BRENDA PLATT: Yes, and the same with polyvinyl chloride. Now, the thing with polyvinyl chloride is, that’s a little different. So this is a nuanced answer to your question is that one of the things that makes PVC toxic is that phthalates are added to it. Softeners.
The irony there is that the harder polyvinyl chloride, that’s stiffer, has less softeners added to it. And the ones that have more softeners added to it, the ones that used to be use for everything from baby bottles to pacifiers, or tubes for floating in the pool. Those are the more toxic.
With a chemical like PVC that needs softeners to improve its performance or their physical characteristics of it, if you can substitute a non-toxic softener – and that’s actually another use for this levulinic acid, then it can make PVC less toxic.
So it depends is the short answer. It really depends.
DEBRA: So we’re getting near the end of our hour. We only have a couple of minutes left. So I want to make sure that we do mention one thing, and that is that you do have on your website, and I’ll give that again, SustainableBiomaterials.org. You have a report called Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastics. And anybody that wants to go to the website and take a look at this, there was so much to talk about today. We didn’t get in to all these things. But I’ll just say that there are guidelines here for what a bioplastic should be. And one of them, for example, is how the material was grown. Is it organic feedstock, or is it organic corn, or is it non-organic corn, is it GMO corn?
There are all these different steps down as you go through the process of making a bioplastic where you can be asking questions about how toxic it is or not toxic, and what ends up happening at the end.
And so you can go and read these guidelines, and they’re quite detailed as to all the different things that you might be looking for in a bioplastic.
So not all bioplastics are the same, and there are some questions we can be asking as consumers. But I think that we’ve gotten a good overview today.
We have less than a minute. Are there any closing words you would like to give, Brenda?
BRENDA PLATT: Well, I’ll just end with thank you, Debra, for having me on the show. And again, I’ll just emphasize that I think no matter what products we’re using, aim for durable products, aim for ones that can be reusable, recyclable or compostable, and do what Debra does. Reduce your trash and stay away from single use products no matter what they’re made from.
DEBRA: I totally agree. Thank you so much for being with me today, Brenda. And I think everybody should go to SustainableBiomaterials.org and see what’s going on. Check out Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastics.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio, and you can find out more about this show or listen to this particular show again or any of the past shows by going to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com.