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What Does Biodegradable Really Mean

And why it matters for your business

What Does Biodegradable Really Mean

If you’re interested in starting an environmentally sustainable business, you’ll have to think about whether your products or packaging are biodegradable. For such a common term, though, there is plenty of confusion about what it actually means.

So, what does it mean for something to be biodegradable? In basic terms, the definition is simple: If something is biodegradable, then, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to its basic components and blend back in with the earth. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind.

For example, when a plant-based product might break down into carbon dioxide, water, and other naturally occurring minerals, the substance seamlessly mixes back into the earth, leaving no toxins behind. Unfortunately, many materials—even ones with a biodegradable label—do break down in a more harmful manner, leaving chemicals or other damaging substances in the soil.

In terms of environmental benefits, the best biodegradable material will break down quickly rather than taking years. It leaves nothing harmful behind and saves landfill space. Unfortunately, not everything that’s advertised as “biodegradable” meets these criteria. If you’re going to run a green business, you should know how to make sure the materials you use are safely and efficiently biodegradable, as well as accurately labelled.

What Materials Are Biodegradable?

Some items are obviously biodegradable. Examples include food scraps and wood that hasn’t been treated with chemicals to resist bugs and rot. Many other items, such as paper, also biodegrade relatively easily. Some products will biodegrade eventually, but it may take years. This includes steel products, which eventually will rust through and disintegrate, and some plastics.

However, conditions are important to encourage biodegradability. Products that will biodegrade in nature or in home compost heaps may not biodegrade in landfills, where there’s not enough bacteria, light, and water to move the process along.

Biodegradable ≠ Compostable

Many organic companies use biodegradable packaging for products or produce organic biodegradable products, but the items may not be as biodegradable as customers think. To make matters more confusing, many items are labelled as “compostable.”

Compostable products are all biodegradable, but they are specifically intended for a composting environment. In the right setting, these products break down even more quickly, usually within 90 days, and they leave behind a nutrient-rich organic material called humus, which creates a healthy soil environment for new plant growth.

Whether an item is compostable or simply biodegradable, it needs to be placed in an environment that facilitates its breakdown. Compostable products require composting environments. But, even some biodegradable items need to be degraded in a controlled composting environment or facility—and very few of these facilities exist in the United States. These large facilities are designed to keep materials at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 consecutive days.

For example, PLA, a popular biodegradable material for green companies, will only decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a controlled composting environment, not in a backyard composting arrangement, according to standards developed by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

With all of these variables, business owners need to communicate clearly with their customers about what they mean when they say “biodegradable.” Even better are those businesses that take it a step further and educate their customers about how to properly dispose of their products.

Biodegradable Claims on Plastic in California

Businesses operating or selling to customers in California will have an extra impetus to be careful with these terms. California tends to have more stringent regulations involving food and product environmental claims (hence the warning labels stating items have been “found by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm”).

When it comes to biodegradable claims, the state is also out in front with regulations limiting the use of certain terms. For example, in Calfornia, it’s illegal to sell any plastic item, or any item with plastic packaging, that includes a label stating it’s “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “decomposable,” “compostable” or “marine degradable” (or any alternate form of those terms).

It’s also illegal in the state to sell a plastic product labeled “home compostable” (or some equivalent claim) unless the manufacturer holds a Vincotte OK Compost HOME certificate. Vincotte is a Belgium-based inspection and certification organization. Finally, the state bans the use of potentially misleading marketing terms, such as “environmentally friendly,” when they’re applied to plastic products and packaging.

Use Terms Carefully

Whether you’re doing business in California or not, it’s wise to be thorough in planning your sustainable business. After all, terms like “biodegradable” are only meaningful if using them actually helps the environment. And that’s the goal for more and more business owners today.

Surgical masks can reduce COVID-19 spread by 75%

Researchers carried out the study in response to world leaders and the WHO questioning whether masks were effective.

Wearing surgical masks can significantly reduce the chances of those with COVID-19 infecting others, researchers have claimed.

According to a study by a team in Hong Kong, the rate at which the virus was transmitted through airborne particles or respiratory droplets was lowered by as much as 75% when masks were used.

“The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,” leading microbiologist Dr Yuen Kwok-yung, from Hong Kong University, said on Sunday.

Dr Yuen, who helped discover the SARS virus in 2003, said the study was the first of its kind.

He said that his team conducted the study because – while he has long supported wearing masks – world leaders, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), had questioned their effectiveness.

The study saw his team use two cages of hamsters in three different scenarios.

One group was infected with COVID-19 and the other was healthy, with a fan used to push air towards the infected animals – some which did not show symptoms.

Researchers said they found that without any masks between the cages, two-thirds of the healthy hamsters were infected within a week.

But when they placed masks on the cage with infected animals, the infection rate dropped to just over 15%.

The infection rate dropped by about 35% when masks were placed on the healthy hamsters’ cage.

Those hamsters that did become infected were also found to have less of the virus in their bodies than those who were infected without a mask, the research found.

Dr Yuen told a press conference on Sunday: “In our hamster experiment, it shows very clearly that if infected hamsters or humans – especially asymptomatic or symptomatic ones – put on masks, they actually protect other people.

“That’s the strongest result we showed here. Transmission can be reduced by 50% when surgical masks are used, especially when masks are worn by infected individuals.

“Up to this stage, we do not have a safe and effective vaccine.

“What remains practical is still either social-distancing measures or wearing masks.”

The UK government initially said face masks could not protect people, but it has revised its advice and is now recommending people wear face coverings where they cannot remain two metres apart in settings such as small shops and on public transport.

European countries including Italy and Germany have said people should wear masks in such settings.

At the start of the pandemic, which started in China, there was a rush to buy face masks in Hong Kong, where people remember the impact of SARS.

Hong Kong suffered 298 deaths from SARS, second only to mainland China, but the territory has only reported four fatalities from COVID-19.

Walking around without a face mask in Hong Kong, Japan or South Korea is seen as irresponsible, and several US states are also now advising people to wear them when out.

Understanding Anti-Static, Dissipative, Conductive, and Insulative

Static Electricity

As the name implies, static electricity is electricity at rest. The electrical charge is the transference of electrons that occurs when there is sliding, rubbing, or separating of a material, which is a generator of electrostatic voltages. For example: plastics, fiber glass, rubber, textiles, ect. Under the right conditions, this induced charge can reach 30,000 to 40,000 volts.

When this happens to an insulating material, like plastic, the charge tends to remain in the localized area of contact. This electrostatic voltage may then discharge via an arc or spark when the plastic material comes in contact with a body at a sufficiently different potential, such as a person or microcircuit.

If Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) occurs to a person, the results may range anywhere from a mild to a painful shock. Extreme cases of ESD, or Arc Flash, can even result in loss of life. These types of sparks are especially dangerous in environments that may contain flammable liquids, solids or gasses, such as a hospital operating room or explosive device assembly.

Some micro-electronic parts can be destroyed or damaged by ESD as low as 20 volts. Since people are prime causes of ESD, they often cause damage to sensitive electronic parts, especially during manufacturing and assembly. The consequences of discharge through an electrical component sensitive to ESD can range from erroneous readings to permanent damage resulting in excessive equipment downtime and costly repair or total part replacement. Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)The sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact, an electrical short, or dielectric breakdown. A buildup of static electricity can be caused by tribocharging or by electrostatic induction. Anti-Static Preventing the buildup of static electricity. Reducing static electric charges, as on textiles, waxes, polishes, etc., by retaining enough moisture to provide electrical conduction. Dissipative The charges flow to ground more slowly and in a somewhat more controlled manner than with conductive materials. Dissipative materials have a surface resistivity equal to or greater than 1 x 105 Ω/sq but less than 1 x 1012 Ω/sq or a volume resistivity equal to or greater than 1 x 104 Ω-cm but less than 1 x 1011 Ω-cm. 2 Conductive With a low electrical resistance, electrons flow easily across the surface or through the bulk of these materials. Charges go to ground or to another conductive object that the material contacts or comes close to. Conductive materials have a surface resistivity less than 1 x 105 Ω/sq or a volume resistivity less than 1 x 104 Ω-cm. Insulative Insulative materials prevent or limit the flow of electrons across their surface or through their volume. Insulative materials have a high electrical resistance and are difficult to ground. Static charges remain in place on these materials for a very long time. Insulative materials are defined as those having a surface resistivity of at least 1 x 1012 Ω/sq or a volume resistivity of at least 1 x 1011 Ω-cm.

ESD Materials Categories

Materials for protection and prevention of ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) can be categorized into three distinct groups – separated by their ranges of conductivity to electrical charges.Anti-StaticResistivity generally between 109 and 1012 ohms per square. Initial electrostatic charges are suppressed. May be surface resistive, surface-coated or filled throughout. Static Dissipative Resistivity generally between 106 and 109 ohms per square. Low or no initial charges — prevents discharge to from human contact. May be either surface-coated or filled throughout. Conductive Resistivity generally between 103 and 106 ohms per square. No initial charges, provides path for charge to bleed off. Usually carbon-particle or carbon-fiber filled throughout.

Resistivity Test Methods

Surface Resistivity

Surface Resistivity Measurements

For thermoplastic materials intended to dissipate electrostatic charges, surface resistivity is the most common measurement of a material’s ability to do so.

A widely accepted surface resistivity test method is ASTM D257. It consists of measuring the resistance (via an ohm meter) between two electrodes applied under load to the surface being tested. Electrodes are used rather than point probes because of the heterogeneous makeup of compounded thermoplastics. Simply touching the surface with a point contact may not give readings consistent with the overall part (readings of this type are often insulative even when the part is actually conductive).

It is also important to maintain good contact between the sample and electrodes, which can require considerable pressure. The resistance reading is then converted to resistivity to account for the dimensions of the electrodes which can vary depending on the size and shape of the test samples. Surface resistivity is equal to resistance times the perimeter of the electrodes divided by the gap distance, yielding ohms/square.

Volume Resistivity Measurements

Volume Resistivity

Volume resistivity is useful for evaluating the relative dispersion of a conductive additive throughout the polymer matrix. It can roughly be related to EMI/RFI shielding effectiveness in certain conductive fillers.

Volume resistivity is tested in a similar fashion to surface resistivity, however electrodes are placed on opposite faces of a test sample. ASTM D257 also refers to volume resistivity, and a conversion factor again based on electrode dimensions and part thickness is used to obtain the resistivity value from a resistance reading. [Volume resistivity is equal to resistance times the surface area (cm2) divided by the thickness of the part (cm) yielding ohm-cm.]

ESD Awareness Symbols

ESD Susceptibility Symbol

The ESD susceptibility symbol incorporates a reaching hand in a triangle with a slash through it and is used to indicate that an electrical or electronic device or assembly is susceptible to damage from an ESD event. Used to identify ESDS [ESD sensitive items] and that personnel should be grounding when unpackaging or handling that item. It is also referred to as the ESD sensitivity symbol or ESD warning symbol.

The symbol is a reaching hand with defined fingers and fingernail, in a contrasting triangle with a slash in front of the hand.

ESD Protective Symbol

The ESD protective symbol differs from the ESD susceptibility symbol, by the addition of an arc around the outside of the triangle and the omission of the slash across the hand and the triangle.

The ESD protective symbol should be used to identify items that are specifically designed to provide ESD protection for ESDS items. Examples of these are packaging, ESD protective clothing and personnel grounding equipment. The ESD protective symbol should also be used on items designed to replace static generative materials. Examples of these items are ESD protective work station equipment, trash can liners, and chairs. The item is to be ESD protective or non-static generative by design.

ESD Common Point Ground Symbol

This symbol is established to indicate an ESD common point ground, which is defined by ANSI/ESD-S6.1 as “a grounded device where two or more conductors are bonded.”

This symbol consists of a bold outer circle inside of which are the words, ESD COMMON POINT GROUND, in bold type. Inside that are two thick contrasting circles and one thick circle that may fill the center or extend to the center where a snap, plug or other fastener may be connected.

View our range of Anti Static products here.

100% Recyclable Bubble Lined Mailers

A&A Packaging’s Featherpost Bubble Lined Mailers come with easy Bubble liner separation allowing this product to be 100% recyclable! Along with full FSC ( Forest Stewardship Council® ) certification.

100% Recyclable Bubble Lined Mailers

Featherpost Bubble Lined Mailers, an economical and practical lightweight postal bag. Designed to accommodate most requirements from small items, such as jewellery and watches, to larger or multi product mailings.

  • Available in 12 standard sizes and 3 colours.
  • Custom printing available.
  • Protection given by Sancell air bubble cushioning.
  • Lightweight construction reduces postal costs.
  • High slip bubble film for ease of use.
  • Pre-printed individual barcodes.
  • Also available in retail multipacks and CDUs.

FSC helps take care of forests and the people and wildlife who call them home and is recognised by WWF as the “hallmark of responsible forest management”.

Three quarters of UK citizens believe it is important for the products they purchase to have been responsibly sourced (TNS 2018).

55% of people in the UK recognise the FSC logo.

69% would prefer to buy a product bearing the FSC logo, compared to one without, a figure that rises to 75% when it is made clear that there are no other visible differences between the products (e.g. size, cost etc.).

Box Branding Opportunity

At A&A Packaging we offer a box branding opportunity, which is so important in today’s competitive ‘stand out’ market.

Box Branding Opportunity

Brand consistency, recognition, and perception can be exceptionally important.

A crucial part of this for many companies is their packaging. From transit packaging with simple one colour logos to retail packaging with photographic imagery, your packaging can become an extension of your brand identity.

Using printed boxes is a great way to impress your customers and give them extra confidence in the quality of your product. A printed packaging box can create an exciting, positive image, which helps build up brand awareness. And as they provide further potential for brand recognition, customised boxes are a low cost but highly effective form of advertising.

At A&A Packaging we believe our team can offer the best box branding opportunity from the product design to after-sale service!

Call or Email our friendly sales team to discuss branding your packaging, in a powerful and cost-effective way.