Glossary

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Anaerobic  

Occurring without oxygen.

ASTM International

An organization that develops international standards for materials, products, systems, and services used in construction, manufacturing and transportation. The standards for bioplastics compostability  are defined by ASTM D6400 and ASTM D6868.

Biobased

Defined by the 2002 Farm Bill, biobased products are commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.

Biodegradable Plastics

Biodegradable Plastics are plastics that are completely assimilated by the microorganisms present in defined environment as food for their energy. The carbon of the plastic must completely be converted into CO2 during the microbial process.

Biomass

Organic, non-fossil material that is available on a renewable basis. Biomass includes all biological organisms, dead or alive, and their metabolic by-products, that have not been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum. Examples of biomass are forest and mill residues, agricultural crops and wastes, wood and wood wastes, animal wastes, livestock operation residues, aquatic plants, and municipal and industrial wastes.

Bioplastics

(As defined by European Bioplastics e.V.) is a term used to define two different kinds of plastics: a. Plastics based on renewable resources (the focus is the origin of the raw material used) b. Biodegradable and compostable plastics according to EN13432 or similar standards (the focus is the compostability of the final product; biodegradable and compostable plastics can be based on renewable (Biobased) and/or non-renewable (fossil) resources).

Bioplastics may be: 

  • Based on renewable resources and biodegradable;
  • Based on renewable resources but not be biodegradable; and
  • Based on fossil resources and biodegradable.

 

BioPreferred program

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that promotes the increased purchase and use of bio-based products. The USDA BioPreferred label assures the consumer that a product or package contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.

Blow molding

Extrusion of a hollow melt tube which is forced to a mold cavity by internal pressure and cooled down to form a hollow article. Used for the production of bottles, widemouthed containers, petrol tanks etc.

BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute)

A professional association of key individuals and groups from government, industry and academia, which promotes the use, and recycling of biodegradable polymeric materials (via composting). It provides scientific testing standards and independent review of test results to certify that products will biodegrade in a composting facility.

Carbon footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly and indirectly to support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of either carbon or carbon dioxide. Carbon footprints are calculated by countries as part of their reporting requirements, as well as by companies, regions, or individuals.

Carbon neutral

Carbon neutral describes a process that has a negligible impact on total atmospheric CO2 levels. For example, carbon neutrality means that any CO2 released when a plant decomposes or is burnt is offset by an equal amount of CO2 absorbed by the plant through photosynthesis when it is growing.

Cellulose

The most common organic compound on Earth, it is the structural component of the primary cell wall of green plans and many forms of algae. About 33% of all plant matter is cellulose. Also a polymeric molecule with very high molecular weight (biopolymer, monomer is Glucose), industrial production from wood or cotton, to manufacture paper, plastics and fibers.

Compost

A soil conditioning material of decomposing organic matter which provides nutrients and enhances soil structure.

Compostable Plastics

Plastics that are biodegradable under 'composting' conditions: specified humidity, temperature, microorganisms and timeframe. 

Composting

A solid waste management technique that uses natural process to convert organic materials to CO2 water and humus through the action of microorganisms. 

Cradle-to-Cradle

Is an expression which communicates the concept of a closed-cycle economy, in which waste is used as raw material ("waste equals food"). Cradle-to-Cradle is not a term that is typically used in LCA studies. 

Cradle-to-Gate

Describes the system boundaries of an environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which covers all activities from the "cradle" (i.e. the extraction of raw materials, agricultural activities and forestry) up to the factory gate.

Cradle-to-Grave

Describes the system boundaries of full Life Cycle Assessment from manufacture ("cradle") to use phase and disposal phase ("grave").

End of life

Term referring to what happens to an item after it has been consumed or used.

European Bioplastics Standards

The European branch association representing industrial manufacturers, processors and users of bioplastics and biodegradable polymers and their derivative products. Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonized European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995.

Extrusion

A manufacturing process in which raw plastic material is melted and formed into a continuous profile.

Feedstock

The bulk raw material used to create plastic. Traditional plastics use petroleum feedstock that are not renewable. Bioplastics use bio-materials as feedstock, including corn, wheat, tapioca, and potatoes.

Fossil fuel

Any naturally occurring carbon or hydrocarbon fuel, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, formed by the decomposition of prehistoric organisms.

Genetically Modified (GM)

A controversial topic, as much of the feedstock planted for industrial uses is genetically modified. It raises the question of the potential contamination of conventional crops. 

Glucose

Monosaccharide (or simple sugar). It is the most important carbohydrate (sugar) in biology and is formed by photosynthesis of many carbohydrates e.g. starch. 

Greenhouse gas

A gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect (phenomenon where the atmosphere traps solar heat radiated back from the earth's surface), contributing to climate change and the destruction of the ozone layer. In order, the most abundant greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons. 

Humus

In agriculture, 'humus' is often used simply to mean mature compost, or natural compost extracted from a forest or other spontaneous source for use to amend soil.

Hygroscopic

Able to effectively absorb moisture in the air.

Injection molding

A repetitive process in which plastic is melted and injected into a mold cavity where the article is cooled down. After cooling, the mold opens and the article is ejected.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

A registered system of rating existing and new buildings, interiors, and other components based on environment effectiveness. The LEED checklist integrates over 60 different criteria and results in certification of 4 levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

An examination, like an audit, of the total impact of the product or service's  manufacturing, use, and disposal in terms of material and energy. This includes an analysis and inventory of all parts, materials, and energy, and their impacts in the manufacturing of a product but usually doesn't include social impacts. 

Methane

A colorless, explosive greenhouse gas with a global warming potential estimated at 23 times that of carbon dioxide. Released as bacteria decompose organic materials in landfills.

Non-biodegradable

Not able to be consumed and/or broken down by biological organisms. Non-biodegradable substances include most traditional plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, etc. and many chemicals used in industry and agriculture.

Oxo-degradable plastic

A petroleum based plastic with metal salt additives that enables the plastic to degrade / fragment when subject to certain environment conditions. This plastic is not consumed by microorganism and would be non-biodegradable.

PE (polyethylene)

The largest volume plastic in the world. This plastic came to the fore during the World War II years, first as an underwater cable coating, then as a critical insulating material for such vital military applications as radar cable. Applications for polyethylene are many and varied, including: packaging films; trash, garment, grocery and shopping bags; molded housewares; toys; containers; pipe; drums; gasoline tanks; coatings and many others.

PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate)

Is linear polyester produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids. The most common type of PHA is a PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate).

PLA (polylactic acid)

Polylactide or Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester from lactic acid. Lactic acid is made from dextrose by fermentation. Bacterial fermentation is used to produce lactic acid from corn starch, cane sugar or other sources. However, lactic acid cannot be directly polymerized to a useful product, because each polymerization reaction generates one molecule of water, the presence of which degrades the forming polymer chain to the point that only very low molecular weights are observed. Instead, lactic acid is oligomerized and then catalytically dimerized to make the cyclcic lactide monomer. Although dimerization also generates water, it can be separated prior to polymerization. PLA of high molecular weight is produced from the lactide monomer by ring-opening polymerization using a catalyst. This mechanism does not generate additional water, and hence, a wide range of molecular weights are accessible. 

PP (polypropylene)

Another "workhorse" of the plastics industry, polypropylene is one of the high-volume "commodity" thermoplastics. Polypropylene was developed out of the Nobel award-winning work of Karl Ziegler and Professor Natta in Europe, and came to the United States in 1957. It belongs to the "olefins" family, which also includes the polyethylene, buy it is quite different in its properties. It has a low density, is fairly rigid, has a heat distortion temperature of 150°F to 200°F degrees Fahrenheit (making it suitable for "hot-fill" packaging applications), and excellent chemical resistance and electrical properties. Major applications of commercial PP are packaging, automotive, appliances and carpeting. 

Recycling

The process of reclaiming materials from used products or materials from their manufacturing and using them in the manufacturing of new products. It is different from Reuse, where products are not destroyed and remanufacture but cleaned and repaired to be used again, also known as remanufacturing. 

Renewable

Any material or energy that can be replenished in full without loss or degradation in quality

Resin pellets

Plastic resin pellets are small granules generally with the shape of a cylinder or a disk with a diameter of a few millimeters. These plastic particles are industrial raw material transported to manufacturing sites where "user plastics" are made by re-melting and molding into the final products. 

Starch

Natural polymer (carbohydrate) consisting of an amylose and an amylopectin, gained from maize, potatoes, wheat, tapioca etc. When glucose is connected to polymer-chains is definite way the result (product) is called starch. Each molecule is based on 300-12,000 glucose units. 

Sustainability

(as defined by European Bioplastics e.V.) has three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. This has been known as "the triple bottom line of sustainability". This means that sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental protection and social equity. In other words, businesses have to expand their responsibility to include theses environmental and social dimensions. Sustainability is about making products useful to markets and, at the same time, having societal benefits and lower environmental impact than the alternatives currently available. It also implies a commitment to continuous improvement that should result in a further reduction of the environmental footprint of today's products, processes and raw materials used. The concept of sustainability is that humans synchronize our consumption of natural resources with the earth's production - in other words, using up natural resources at the same rate at which they are produced. 

Thermoforming

A manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a pliable forming temperature, formed to a specific shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product. 

Thermoplastics

Type of plastics that once melted and molded, retain their new structure and cannot be remelted or reprocessed.

Yard Waste

Grass clippings, leaves, trimmings, garden residue.

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