Jumping on the Green Bandwagon

Greenwashing in action

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recently we received an email here at the Green (Living) Review from KEEPME BAGS of Greenhithe, Kent, advertising – whether this email was intended to us as a “press release” or something else I do not know – their “ECO Bag of non-woven polypropylene”. The claims for those ECO PP Bags from “Keep Me Bags” are as follows:

“100% recyclable, robust & 100% reusable, biodegradable, non toxic, made using very clean and energy efficient manufacturing processes, printed with water based inks, flame retardant and air permeability, ECO friendly - new generation of environment-friendly materials, made from spun bonded 100% Polypropylene.”

While I am not arguing in any way with the claims for being 100% recyclable, and those of robustness and and of the ability to be reused, nor have any problems with them, I am having great problems with the claim of those bags as being biodegradable. Polypropylene is a plastic, basically; a synthetic material, that is oil based and that is NOT biodegradable, whatever any vendor or manufacturer might like to claim in order to sell those to companies who may be rather ignorant as to what is or is not biodegradable.

Plastics of any kind break down in the environment, that is true. But that is just it; the material slowly breaks down by the action of light and and soil and weather into ever smaller fragments of – plastic. And, while doing so it releases harmful substances into the soil and water. Cheers. They do not compost and therefore are not biodegradable.

The same applies for any other plastic bag unless the bags are made of PLA, that is to say corn starch or lactic acid based “plastic” type of materials. Those latter ones do, indeed, biodegrade; they in fact compost nicely.

It would very much appear that the green bandwagon is the one to jump on at present and too many companies wishing to be seen as green buy such bags unbeknown of the fact that they are being lied to as to the biodegradable claims and such like.

In this case we are talking about a polyester fibre, non-woven – which means the fibers are being bonded together (by some sort of glue, one should guess) and we are being given all those “green” credentials. This is a definite case of greenwashing, much like the “Eco-Button”, that useless piece of electronic trash.

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008