Sustainability Glossary - A Guide to Use and Reuse
We live in a time where many products and packaging are being marketed as “eco-friendly”. While this can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming to those who are confronted with too many choices and too much information. Choosing the “right” products for your operation can be a challenging proposition. Our goal here is to arm you with the knowledge you need to understand what these various claims and symbols mean. Once you’ve gained a better understanding, you’ll be equipped to make better decisions.
Bio-Based Content – What Does It Mean
“Bio-Based” means that the product has been partially or wholly made from renewable biological sources. The specific percentage of the product that is bio-based should be clearly stated on the label. Bio-based products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials. and serve as a sustainable alternative to conventional petroleum derived products like foam cups and other disposables. Most GP PRO disposable foodservice products are bio-based and many carry the BioPreferred® seal.
The USDA BioPreferred® Program logo provides proof of bio-based content. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) started the USDA BioPreferred® Program in 2002 to encourage the use of renewable resources while also establishing strong scientific methods to support specific claims. Products and packages displaying the USDA BioPreferred® seal have been third-party tested at independent laboratories and only officially certified products are permitted to carry the USDA BioPreferred® seal. To qualify as USDA BioPreferred®, most disposable foodservice items must contain at least 72 percent bio-based content. The USDA BioPreferred® label carefully delineates the amount of bio-based content present in the packaging vs the product so that customers can make more informed choices.
Recycled Content – What Does It Mean
“Recyclable” is intended to help buyers understand the potential disposal options for the product after its intended use. Products marked “Recyclable” contain materials that are accepted by recyclers in at least 20% of the US. It is very important to understand that not everyone has access to recycling facilities, and that local recycling programs have different protocols for the types and condition of materials that will be accepted and rejected. Also, products marked “recyclable” but otherwise mistreated (e.g. not placed in the proper bins or not in the proper condition) are likely to be landfilled.
Many GP products carry “recyclable” claims. Additionally, GP actively supports some of the world’s largest retailers in their efforts to capture and deliver “Recyclable” materials to recycling facilities.
GP encourages customers to support their recycling programs by understanding - and following – the protocols for their local area.
What to Look For
Keep an eye out for the words “Recycled Content” as well as the specific percentage for the product. For napkins and towels, the EPA compliant self-certification logo will be displayed in catalogs and on packaging. The EPA self-certification provides schools and government agencies visibility to a product’s compliance with the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management initiative, which requires materials to feature minimum levels of Post-Consumer and Total Recycled Content.
Recyclable – What Does It Mean
“Recyclable” indicates how broadly a product is accepted by Recyclers and is separate and distinct from “Recycled Content.” Products that are accepted more universally can be labeled “Recyclable” and aren’t required to carry a disclaimer. Products that are accepted less broadly should have disclaimers that inform buyers about these potential limitations. Recycling materials creates both environmental and financial benefits on both the local and national level. We strongly encourage businesses and customers to support local recycling programs by understanding the parameters and encouraging the right behaviors. GP Harmon is one of the largest brokers of recycled materials and supports some of the largest retailers in their recycling efforts.
What to Look For
While it’s easy to look for the international recycling symbol, or Mobius loop, it’s important to remember that the recycling symbol does not mean that a given product can be recycled in your area. We suggest you research your local recycling programs to better understand the types of products and materials they will accept.
Compostable – What Does It Mean
Compostable means that the product will disintegrate and biodegrade RAPIDLY during the composting process and will not reduce the value of the finished humus - the organic component of soil. Frequently, “Compostable” labels will specify the type of facility – “Industrial” or “At-home” – required to achieve this rapid degradation, or will showcase a certification.
There are many materials that can safely decompose into the earth over time, but safe and rapid decomposition are what differentiate compostable items from non-compostable items. Composting is one way to divert materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Like recycling, be sure to research and understand the rules and facilities available in your community. While composting is a growing trend, not every community has reasonable access to commercial composting facilities.
What to Look For
The logo for the Biodegradable Products Institute® (BPI®) assure consumers that a product is compostable. Products carrying the symbol are likely to be accepted in local programs that work to divert compostable materials from landfills into aerobic composting systems.
GP Product Breakdown
GP PRO has many 3rd party certified product solutions. Visit the GP PRO product catalog to learn more. If you’re questioning what a product is composed of or how you should dispose of it, always check the packaging for the seals, logos and language you need to guide your decisions.