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Frequently Asked Questions

1. COMPOSTING 2. BIODEGRADABLE 3. PLA (Corn Starch Plastic) 4. BAGASSE (Sugarcane Fiber) 5. POST CONSUMER WASTE PAPER
COMPOSTING
What are biodegradable and compostable products ?

Biodegradable and compostable products are made from organic, natural materials like corn, potato starch, Oils and bagasse (sugar cane). These products come from annually renewable resources and are sustainably manufactured, non-toxic while in use and decompose back into the soil.

What is the difference between compostable and biodegradable ?

Compostable Product is a product which is "capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the product is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials and leaves no toxic residue." American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM).

In order for a product to be called compostable, three (3) criteria must be met:

  • Biodegrade - break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).
  • Disintegrate - the material is indistinguishable in the compost, that it is not visible and needs to be screened out.
  • No Eco-toxicity - the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth.
BIODEGRADABLE

Biodegradable Product is product which will degrade from naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi etc. over a period of time. Note, that there is no requirement for leaving "no toxic residue", and as well as no requirement for the time it needs to take to biodegrade.

What's wrong with plastic and Styrofoam ?

Plastic and Styrofoam are non-biodegradable, petroleum derived, stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years and leach toxic substances into the groundwater

Approximately 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the USA alone, together with billions of Styrofoam and plastic cups, plates etc. Biodegradable products can, therefore, reduce landfill mass by as much as 30%.

What's wrong with paper plates ?

Most paper disposable products are made from virgin wood fiber, which depletes our natural forests and the eco-services that forests provide. In comparison, bagasse is a byproduct of sugar cane production, a readily renewable resource and widely grown all over the world.

What's the difference between Corn/PLA products and Bagasse products ?

PLA products are made from corn starch, while bagasse products are made from residual sugar cane fiber (a waste product of sugar production). PLA products work better with cold materials, while bagasse products work with both hot and cold materials are microwave and freezer safe.

What is the self life of your products ?

PLA and bagasse products have an estimated shelf life of two years. Products should be stored in a cool dry area to achieve maximum life expectancy. PLA products should not be exposed to heat levels over 110 degrees F.

How long will these products take to break down ?

Biocompostable products do not decompose on their own. They must enter the composting process. This entails putting them into the soil with food, yard waste and other organic materials. Once the Biocompostable product enters the compost system, it will decompose over a few months.

Decomposition time is dependent on two factors. One factor is the way in which biodegradable products are disposed of. Biodegradables are best disposed of in a commercial composting system, as commercial compost piles contain large amounts of moisture, are kept at a high heat and are aerated frequently. In commercial composting systems bioplastics are expected to degrade within 180 days. Within a home composting system, where high levels of heat are not able to be reached and where aeration depends on how often the owner is willing to turn their pile, bioplastics can take more than 180 days to degrade. Another factor is product thickness. The thicker a product is the longer it will take to degrade. Many commercial facilities grind or cut products such as biodegradable cutlery in smaller pieces to decrease degradation time.

Which products are the most sustainable ?

Bagasse products, which are made from sugar cane fiber leftover from juice extraction, are very sustainable products. It uses a waste product that would otherwise be land filled or incinerated.

Isn't using corn for disposable products wasting a valuable food source ?

No, because it is made from No. 2 yellow dent field corn, the most abundant and cheapest source of fermentable sugar in the US. We use very little of available US corn crop.

Have your items been tested for compostability by reliable sources ?

All our PLA products carry are certified by ASTM and BPI for compostability.

What is composting ?

Composting is breaking down organic material by bacteria, yeasts and fungi into healthy, fertile soil To learn more about composting, please click here.

Where is the nearest composting facility ?

A list of composting facilities in California is located here.

If you are not located in the state of California but reside within the continental United States or Alaska, please click here to locate a facility near you.

How do I properly dispose of my bio-compostable products ?

Please dispose of products in compost bins whenever possible. Unfortunately, not every city has a nearby composting facility. You can contact your city's waste management and/or recycling programs for further information on your composting options. Your city or county website will often have information on composting and free composting classes available. Information on how to create your own compost can be found here.

Biodegradable/compostable products are not recyclable and contaminate the recycling line. In the trash, they will most likely end up in a landfill.

What's the difference between composting and recycling ?

Composting involves the decomposition of organic material by bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Recycling is re-processing used materials to create new items. Recycling works by collecting used "waste," sorting the materials, breaking it down into basic components and then recreating new goods. Biodegradable products are compostable, while most plastics are recyclable. Paper can be either composted or recycled.

Is composting a feasible alternative to landfills ?

Composting biodegradable plastic, along with other biodegradable waste, generates much-needed carbon-rich soil (humus) instead of filling up our valuable land with waste. Compost amended soil can have beneficial effects by increasing water & nutrient retention in soil, reducing chemical inputs, (toxins, pesticides, etc.) and suppressing plant diseases. Many communities have large-scale centralized collection of yard waste and compostable material. (Please check with your community about options in your area or ask your waste disposal company.) Through composting, the problem of waste disposal could become the solution for low-input, sustainable agriculture.

Shouldn't you encourage people to "reuse," rather than replace one disposable product for another ?

Yes, ideally we should all be reusing dining ware. Unfortunately, Americans use an immense amount of takeout containers and other disposable tableware everyday for convenience. Most of these materials are thrown into the landfill, stay there for thousands of years and leach into our groundwater. Biodegradable products offer a compromise: today's consumers get the convenience of disposables, while future generations benefit from cleaner groundwater, less landfill overflow and environmental degradation.

Do Cities collect these products if they have food waste on them ?

counties (like Alameda and San Francisco) pick up food waste. In other cases, there are some companies that pick up green waste.

PLA (Corn Starch Plastic)
What are corn plastics/ PLA ?

PLA is PoLylActic acid and is made from corn starch. It is a bioplastic that is both compostable & biodegradable.

How is PLA different from recyclable plastic ?

The first and most important difference between traditional plastics and PLA (PoLylActic acid) is the material they are made from. Plastics are made from petroleum based chemicals & additives that are known pollutants and toxins while PLA are derived from corn-based resins (a non toxic and annually renewable resource). Secondly is the way in which PLA and traditional plastics break down. Traditional plastics can be recycled or thrown in a landfill to slowly breakdown over hundreds of years. PLA products can't be recycled but will biodegrade 60% of their mass within 180 days in a composting system. It is unknown how long Biocompostable products such as PLA take to break down if put in a traditional landfill system.

Is there a symbol for "bioplastics" ?

Currently symbols #1-#6 are reserved for plastic products - bio-plastics and all other products, which can be considered as plastic, fall under the #7 symbol.

Is PLA more or less expensive than regular plastic ?

That depends on the type and brand of the product, as well as the size of the order.

How are the PLA products (cutlery, bags, cups etc.) manufactured ?

They are made by processes which are similar to how plastic products are made - injection molding, extrusion or thermal formed.

How long will the corn-based cutlery take to decompose or compost ?

The PLA (corn derived) cutlery and any other products made from PLA (cups, biobags etc.) take longer to biodegrade and perhaps are best composted in a commercial facility. However, they can be composted at home and may take 180 days or more to biodegrade.

What if I throw my PLA products into the trash ?

Our products require adequate amounts of heat, moisture and air to biodegrade. Unfortunately, conventional landfills do not fulfill these necessary conditions. If PLA products are thrown into the trash, it will be collected and dumped into the landfill. Communities across the country are rapidly depleting available landfill space, so any addition to landfill volume simply adds to this problem. More importantly, landfills are sealed which means little biodegradation occurs below the surface, so what is thrown away remains preserved for decades to come.

What if I throw my PLA cutlery into the recycling bin ?

If the cutlery is thrown into the recycling bin, it will not be reformed into another plastic product, but will degrade in the actual recycling process. (Keep in mind that after the sorting process, a low percentage of plastic is actually recycled.)

How do PLA products handle hot and cold foods ?

The PLA (corn derived) cutlery is heat resistant to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the 120 degrees F cutlery with hotter foods will make it lose its structure and shape. PLA is not microwave, but it is freezer safe.

PLA is not microwavable, but freezer safe. The PLA products are especially great for cold products.

Are PLA products edible ?

While our PLA products are generally non-toxic, they are not recommended for human consumption. If accidentally ingested, most small pieces of PLA would pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract and are eliminated in the stool. If pain or discomfort occurs, please consult a doctor.

What if I am allergic to corn ?

While PLA is corn-based, the extreme heat used in processing this corn into the feedstock destroys immunologically reactive profilin. Thus, PLA should not cause an allergic reaction.

Is the corn used to make PLA products GMO-free ?

The corn cutleries, which are made in China, are GMO-free. The products manufactured within the United States may be produced using GMO corn.

Does this mean that Savannah supports GMO ?

We do NOT support GMO products, however, through the purchase of PLA resin we are contributing to GMO corn production. While we NOT do want to purchase anything with a GMO-base, our primary goal is to lessen our reliance on petroleum products and prevent the environmental degradation caused by the manufacture of these products. Further, we intend to work with our competitors to demand non-GMO corn for the marketplace. We believe that as the market for compostable plastics grow; we will soon have the purchasing power to eliminate GMOs in our products!

BAGASSE (Sugarcane Fiber)
What is Bagasse ?

Bagasse is sugar cane fiber pulp, left after the juice has been extracted from the sugar cane stalk. Bagasse is normally seen as a waste product and incinerated, thus creating air pollution. Making tableware out of residual sugar cane fiber actually decreases air pollution and adds value to the material.

How is Bagasse tableware manufactured ?

Sugar cane fiber bagasse tableware is made by pressing the pulp with intense pressure and high temperatures to a mold form. It is sterilized and sanitized and conforms to U.S. Food & Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) guidelines.

What are the benefits of using bagasse ?

Bagasse is 100% compostable and it biodegrades in 30-60 days. Through the use of this product, you are contributing to a sustainable planet. Bagasse is a tree-free renewable resource and provides a superior alternative to petroleum derived products. It will biodegrade and will not stay in the environment for hundreds of years.

How long does Bagasse take to biodegrade ?

The rate of decomposition depends on the composting conditions - the temperature, turnover rate, moisture etc. Just like other compostable material, products will biodegrade much faster, if they are broken into smaller pieces.

Bagasse (sugarcane fiber) tableware will biodegrade at the same rate as garden waste in a home composting system, which depending on the home composting system can be approximately between 60 and 90 days. They will degrade faster in a commercial composting facility.

How well do the bagasse products handle heat ?

The Bagasse (sugarcane fiber) tableware will handle hot food and beverages up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the tableware does "sweat" with hot foods and some condensation will form at the bottom of the tableware with hot foods. Bagasse is both microwave and freezer safe.

POST CONSUMER WASTE PAPER
What is PCW Paper ?

Post consumer waste (PCW) paper is made from paper that has been used by the end consumer, collected from various recycling programs.

What's the difference between regular paper and PCW paper ?

"Regular" paper is probably made of virgin trees, while PCW paper is made from paper that has been used by the end consumer. According to www.papercalculator.org, 100% PCW paper uses 42% less energy, releases 37% less carbon dioxide and pollutes 46% less water than 100% Virgin paper.

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