Under a proposed system by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, products made of renewable resources such as plants could receive a special “BioPreferred” label.
The system requires a certain percentage of products to be bio-based in order to receive certification, and the products covered range from linens to fertilizers to household cleaners. For example, while motor oil must be 34 percent bio-based to qualify, lip care products need an 82 percent bio-based rating.
The process for a labeling system began last year and gained traction during a public comment period from April to July 2009. If all goes according to plan, it will appear on products in early 2010.
Because bio-based products use more renewable materials during manufacturing, their eco-impact is primarily focused on the initial stages of a product. These products can often cause difficulty in disposal, such as in the case of plastic bottles.
Bottles made of polylactic acid (PLA) instead of petroleum are biodegradable or commercially compostable. However, this doesn’t include bottles made of traditional plastics, such as PETE or HDPE. As a result, there is debate over the impact of mixing these plastics with other plastic resins in the recycling stream, since the resins would not be compatible during recycling.
Bio-plastics are not currently a part of the BioPreferred labeling system.