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Plastic Challenge #5: The Uninvited Guest

Save Our Shores (SOS) values honesty and transparency in its effort to reduce plastic consumption. It is easy for most people to just throw their plastic away, but SOS is blessed with a guilty conscience regarding plastic use. As a team, we find that being open about those rare incidences when plastic is used at SOS events allows us capacity for improvement. SOS is always coming up with creative and inspiring strategies to reduce its plastic consumption.

On the day of our strategic planning meeting, staff members found themselves rushing to prepare a meal for the members of the team and the idea of ordering pizza seemed too good to be true. The pizza arrived and along with it came the plastic — the side salad and dressing were delivered in an ECO plastic salad bowl and container. ECO claims that their plastic salad bowls are “compostable in a commercial compost facility and made from Ingeo™ plant-based plastic”.

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The life cycle of a typical Ingeo plant-based plastic looks something like this:

1. Ingeo biopolymer starts with plants
2. Then goes through photosynthesis
3. And with the help of microorganisms through a process called polymerization, the sugar turns into a polymer, and the plastic is then formed into Ingeo pellets
4. Once a biopolymer, it can be transformed into innovative products including food serviceware
5. Some end of life options:
-Commercial compost
-Feedstock recovery: Ingeo biopolymer easily converted back into lactic acid

This all seems pretty good, right? Wrong. Ingeo plastic may be a good alternative to normal plastic but it’s not ALL good. Ingeo plastic production requires dextrose that is made from “a mixed stream of non-GMO and GMO corn grown in the area” (NatureWorks LLC- FAQ’s). In addition, many consumers in the US have limited access to commercial composting sites and therefore just choose to put it in the trash instead. When taken to the landfill, Ingeo plant-based plastic will NEVER biodegrade: “due to the low oxygen concentration and drop in temperature, the natural environment will retard molecular weight loss thus not allowing Ingeo biopolymer to become biodegradable” (NatureWorks LLC- FAQ’s).

Next time if no one from our staff has time to go pick up the food, we will devise a different plan.  We could bring our own dinners to planning meetings or we could carve out more time earlier in the day for a pick up at a restaurant or store where we can bring our own containers for the food. By reducing plastic consumption at SOS events in the future, we are living our goal of becoming a green business. If there is a next time SOS finds itself using ECO plastics, the plastic will be taken to one of the nearest commercial compost facilities for disposal.

 

-Kim Marks

SOS Programs Intern

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