Coming Soon: A New Symbol for Bioplastics


Cereplast extracts sugars and starches from plants like corn, tapioca and potatoes and converts them into resin pellets (above), which can be made into bioplastic products. Photo: Cereplast

We’re all familiar with the iconic chasing arrows that make up the recycling symbol. Now bioplastics manufacturer Cereplast plans to introduce a new symbol that it hopes will become as instantly recognizable as the chasing arrows: a logo that helps consumers easily identify products made from bioplastics.

From July 25 until Aug. 12, Cereplast is hosting an online forum for the public and the bioplastics industry to weigh in on how the symbol should be used.

To choose the new symbol, Cereplast hosted a national design competition, which received more than 1,500 entries and 4.5 million public votes to determine the top 200 designs. The winning design, which debuted April 21, was selected by a panel of judges including industrial designer Karim Rashid and Gary Anderson, who designed the famous recycling symbol through a similar competition in 1970. Cereplast awarded $25,000 to the winning designer Laura Howard, then a graphic design student at the University of Louisville.

The new logo will be available for Cereplast and other companies to use on bioplastic products in mid-November, the company said.

Cereplast has applied for trademark registration of the symbol and is in the process of determining its use and licensing guidelines – and they’ve decided to hold the public forum as part of that process.

Why trademark the bioplastics logo while the recycling symbol is in the public domain?

A trademark will ensure products using the symbol meet a specific set of standards and will prevent misuse of the symbol, said Nicole Cardi, Cereplast’s vice president of marketing and communications.

“Part of the success of the recycling symbol is that it’s been in the public domain since the 1970s, but [because the symbol is in the public domain] it has sometimes been used incorrectly or in a misleading manner,” said Cardi.

While it took several decades for the recycling symbol to become as widespread as it is today, Cardi said, the bioplastics logo should be adopted more rapidly, even though it is trademarked, in today’s digital age where it is easier to quickly share information.

Cereplast held a nationwide design competition and selected this symbol to help consumers easily identify products made from bioplastics. Photo: Cereplast

Cereplast will retain the symbol’s trademark, but will contract with an independent third party to license the symbol to other companies that wish to use it on qualifying bioplastic products. While it will be free for a company to license the logo, the third party will require a nominal fee to review the company’s license application.

In addition to helping consumers easily recognize bioplastic products, Cereplast hopes the new bioplastics symbol will also clear up consumer confusion about what bioplastics are, Cardi said. According to industry standards, bioplastic is a plastic that is compostable within 180 days, made from bio-based materials or both.

Many people assume that every product made from bioplastic is compostable, but that is not always the case – and not necessarily the best choice for certain products, Cardi said.

“Compostable bioplastics are good for disposable single-use products like forks and knives, but durability is good for other products,” she said. “You don’t want to use a compostable bioplastic for the sunglasses that will be sitting on your car dashboard in the heat or for parts in the interior of your car.”

Even though these durable bioplastics are not compostable, they still offer other environmental benefits, Cardi said.

“They use less fossil fuel than traditional plastics, have a smaller carbon footprint and have many other socio-economic benefits. It’s not just about end of the life,” she said.


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