Italy Bans Plastic Bags

Okay it’s the 11 March but I’ve only just discovered this. Italy banned non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags on 1 January 2011.

“Sustainability is made of little changes to our lifestyle that don’t cost us anything and can save the planet,” said Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian Environmental Minister.

While the bags do cost more to make, so far that hasn’t been passed onto consumers (as far as I know) and research has shown that Italians have always disliked the thin single-use bags and were ready for stronger multi-use ones.

Yay Italy I say.

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The Compost Cab

We’re all a bit concerned by the taxi culture that sees people taking short journeys around the city, with serious consequences for the environment. But here’s a cab with a difference. The ‘Compost Cab,’ brainchild of social entrepreneur Jeremy Brosowsky, recently launched in Washington DC, to enable city-dwellers to compost their organic waste.

For those of us living in small apartments, the idea of composting our waste is pretty much a non-starter. With space at a premium, composting can seem impractical. And then there’s the smell. Rotting food in confined spaces – not a great combination. Enter the Compost Cab – an eco-friendly service which provides city residents with a trash bin which they can fill with organic and biodegradable household waste.

Compost Cab

Hail the affordable eco-cab
For a mere $8 per week, Compost Cab offers a weekly compost pick-up service, taking household waste to nearby urban farms, to help enrich the soil and increase the quality of organic produce grown there. It’s a win-win solution, which allows more people to compost everyday organic waste while reducing landfill and bringing more high quality, organic produce to market.

Compost Cab is committed to building and rewarding customer loyalty. After nine months, all scheme participants will be entitled to return deliveries of rich, composted soil, to help with their own home-grown projects. Because Compost Cab weighs your weekly compost output, each household can claim up to 10 percent of the composted soil for free! Those who choose not to claim their soil allocation can donate it to Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO), Compost Cab’s primary composting partner, and they’ll use it to grow nutritious, healthy food for local kids.

From rooftop to road
Brosowsky was inspired to develop the Compost Cab idea following his attendance at a Growing Power course on commercial urban agriculture. Passionate about the possibilities of setting up sustainable rooftop farms in the heart of the city’s poorer neighborhoods, Brosowsky set about finding new ways to incentivize and support inner-city food production.

Brosowsky knew all about the challenges of composting in the city, and had been puzzling for some time over ways to create affordable, odor-free composting units for fellow city-dwellers. He claims the basic idea for Compost Cab was fleshed out in a day, and yet already he has a strong residential customer-base as well as a community composting facility at the local Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, demonstrating the demand for his service.

To date, Compost Cab has focused on recruiting residential customers. However, Brosowsky won’t stop there – he’s keen to engage restaurants, coffee shops, big business and even city governments to get in on the act. It seems that he has created a powerful eco-franchise, which could see Compost Cabs popping up in cities everywhere.

It’s startling to learn that the average American family is producing more than 500 pounds of surplus organic waste every year. Composting not only helps to prevent this waste from ending up in toxic landfill – but it also reduces our food miles, by allowing local farmers to successfully grow organic produce in the fertile, natural soil surrounding our cities.

For more information about the Compost Cab or to sign up, visit www.compostcab.com

The Big Plastic Bag Debate

These days, stepping out with a plastic bag carries as much of a stigma as admitting that you kick kittens for pleasure or actively engage in the torture of insects for fun. Plastic is rapidly becoming the swear word of our green generation, and more and more manufacturers are becoming aware that they are no longer able to rely on this expensive and environmentally-harmful way of packaging goods and promoting their brands.

Despite the huge awareness about the dangers of using plastic bags for groceries and other uses, a study by National Geographic has revealed the following facts about the plastic bag trade, showing:
• To date the only large city to ban plastic bags is San Francisco
• Only Washington DC has elected to tax shoppers that receive plastic bags
• No state has banned plastic bags
• No state has taxed plastic bags.

So it seems that not much changes when it comes to reducing the manufacture and use of the commodity, despite the huge amount of publicity which the use of plastics for bags has generated over recent months.

Why are people so slow to ditch plastic in favour of other materials?
Plastic bags came in to use a quarter of a century ago, and have been immensely popular ever since. Sturdy, cheap to produce and durable, they are the bag of choice for grocery stores and the convenience market. Easy to carry and easy to store, they tend to be more practical than their paper counterparts, regardless of the environmental risks associated with their use.

Plastic bags

Why are plastic bags so awful?
Plastic bags have few redeeming features when it comes to the environment. They are not biodegradable, meaning that any which are discarded end up in landfill clogging up the eco system. They block drains, drift in the sea and get in to the stomachs of creatures such as turtles, killing them. The true cost of plastic bags on the environment is staggering. Data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 on US plastic bag, sack, and wrap consumption shows that somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills.

A spokesperson for the American Plastics Council has stated that the US is embarking upon a crusade against the use of plastic bags, even if this crusade isn‘t reflected by laws around their use: “We feel it is important to understand that plastic grocery bags are some of the most reused items around the house. Many, many bags are reused as book and lunch bags as kids head off to school, as trash can liners, and to pickup Fido’s droppings off the lawn.”

Once plastic bags are put in to the environment, it takes months to hundreds of years for them to break down. As they decompose, toxic chemicals seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and the oceans. Despite all the evidence against the use of plastic bags, the Society of the Plastics Industry based in Washington DC, states that they are still the right choice for consumers. Compared to paper grocery bags, plastic grocery bags consume forty percent less energy, generate eighty percent less solid waste, produce seventy percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to ninety-four percent fewer waterborne wastes. While a plastic bag costs around one cent to produce, a paper equivalent costs around four.

Regardless of the arguments for and against the use of these items, there is no question but that using a cotton equivalent which can be used again and again will be less harmful to the environment than using plastic bags that are discarded after one use.

Biodegradable Cigarette Filters Contain Seeds

With smoking bans in various countries leading to even more discarded cigarette butts littering the floor, that take 15 years to break down, one company has come up with a solution – sort of.

Greenbutts

Greenbutts has developed an all-natural, biodegradable cigarette filter that, when planted will sprout a plant. Using patent-pending technology, Greenbutts are manufactured from 100% all-natural and compostable materials. organic cotton and natural de-gummed hemp form the filter body. The filters are then combined with a variety of seeds, transforming them into plantable cigarette butts that will sprout grasses, flowers, fruits, herbs or trees. Wheat flour and pure water bind the filter elements as they are spun together.

The San Diego-based firm is currently seeking investors and partners.

Introducing The Potato Pen

DBA

It’s not often you receive an email that offers to show you a potato pen and there was no way I was going to resist opening it. To be honest, when I discovered it wasn’t shaped like a potato, I was a little disappointed, but this makes much more sense.

This is the DBA, which claims to be the only 98% biodegradable pen in the world and “the only pen to use ink composed of simple, pronounceable ingredients” – which I like. The outside of the pen is made from a potato-based plastic and the internal reservoir is made from a “renewable, biodegradable fiber”.

The ink itself is made from a few simple ingredients including water and non-toxic pigments.

The factory which makes the pen in New York state is powered by an on-site wind turbine which adds to the pen’s eco-credentials. And DBA will also add to the pen in its line of products with a heater, humidifier, dishrack and extension cord.

Find out more here.

Brad Pitt Helps Launch Eco Skincare Range

It’s not often we mention Brad Pitt on Life Goggles, which some people may say is a shame, but we’re mentioning him now as helped launch a new biodegradable body cleanser. Made by skincare experts Kiehl’s, it’s made from aloe vera and 100% of the proceeds from sales got to the charity JPF Eco Systems.

Kiehl's

Also sourced from environmentally friendly ingredients, free of parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate, the hope is to raise £600,000 for the charity, which is an initiative dedicated to the construction of environmentally sustainable, affordable housing for the displaced victims of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

And it’s good to see the bottle is 100% recycled too. The body cleanser costs £15 from Kiehl’s shops or go online to fine other stockists like department stores.

All Disposable Products Should Be Like This!

We review a lot of great alternatives to “traditional” products, ones that are just as good (or better), sometimes costing around the same, and we often come to the conclusion – why do we still use the popular versions?

enviroware biodegradable cutlery and plates

Disposable cutlery and containers are products that are difficult to avoid. There are times when reusable cutlery is not practical or allowed (i.e airplanes) and while remembering to take your own containers to takeaway places (or even restaurants for left-overs) is an admirable goal, it’s not one that we’re all likely to achieve any time soon.

To that end, Dispoz-o have sponsored a review of their latest environmentally conscious products – enviroware biodegradable cutlery, straws, hinged containers, plates and bowls.

About Dispoz-o

Creating a biodegradable product with the same characteristics as non-biodegradable plastics seems like a great achievement to me. Beginning their “greening” in 1999, Dispoz-o began with using recycled materials, water reclamation, energy saving systems, and many other initiatives in their factories following the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. But this wasn’t enough; they partnered with MIT to create “envirofoam” dinnerware in order to reduce their environmental footprint. Then, in 2005, they began their quest to make their disposable plastic products out of biodegradable material, which would be realized in 2008.

Biodegradable Cutlery and Plates

There are several different ways to achieve this goal, each with their pros and cons, and it took over two years for them to discover their final method – Active Organic Catalyst (AOC). The AOC agents act as a stimulus for micro-organisms to produce an enzyme that breaks up the molecular chain into much smaller structures. Once this is done, the micro-organisms can then metabolize these structures into organic material. Enviroware is FDA approved and meets lots of acronym standards that you can look up on their website.

Depending on how active a landfill is the products will degrade in as little as 9 months and up to five years, compared to a typical estimated 400 years with current plastics and traditional food containers. They break down completely into carbon dioxide, water and methane and leave no toxic residue.

enviroware biodegradable cutlery and plates

Yes, it’s still plastic

The products are either polypropylene or polystyrene plastic (made from petroleum), but coupled with AOC their products are now 100% biodegradable. It is better to avoid using plastic at all but there are times when you can’t avoid it, and there are some people and companies who don’t care about avoiding plastic. I’m all about making things easier for people and taking small steps towards being green, so using green products that look the same and function the same as traditional non-green products is a great move. I’ve tried many of them out personally and you can’t notice the difference at all with enviroware.

Enviroware make 100% biodegradable single use products including plates, bowls, hinged take-out containers, school lunch trays, cutlery, cutlery kits, straws and stirrers. If you’re a business who uses the non-biodegradable versions of these products and aren’t about to, or able to change anytime soon, then take a look a Dispoz-o enviroware. Houston Independent School District have just announced their move to biodegradable products.

enviroware biodegradable cutlery and plates