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[GreenYes] FW: [GreenYes] Re: Can you feed the stuff to the fish?

We have a water bottling business here in Kauai that is about to
introduce water bottles that are bio-based plastics. The owners told me
they plan to set special containers out at supermarkets to capture the
bottles and then send them to a commercial composting site.

On Kauai, recycling is a new concept and at least half, if not more, of
the population does not currently segregate their recyclables from
waste, let alone compost. It is not part of the collective consciousness
yet. I have concerns that the general population will either throw the
bottles in the trash, segregate them into their #1 & #2 plastic
recyclables, or try to home compost them.

1) Some businesses have asked me "isn't bio-plastics a better option
than petroleum based plastics even if they end up in the landfill
because they have more of a chance to break down?" Some are also
contesting that the production of bio-based plastics is less harmful
than petroleum based plastics. What are the environmental costs
associated with the production of bio-based plastics and is it better to
instead recycle plastics #1 & #2.

2) The bottling company said that a small percentage may be captured
with plastics #1 & #2 but said that it would not contaminate the load.
They have not checked in with the only recycling processor on the island
and thus do not really know how these bottles will affect contamination.
Contamination is already a problem here on Kauai. What percentage of
bio-plastics could be captured with plastics #1 & #2 and not be
considered a major contamination problem?

3) The reality on Kauai is that recycling is not convenient for
residents or visitors. Curbside is not available and people must take
their recyclables to a community drop off bin. The water bottling
company is proposing that people will now go the extra mile to segregate
bio-plastics from the remainder of the recyclables and take it to their
drop off bins which are not going to be anywhere near the community drop
off bins. This seems that they are putting the cart before the horse.
Kauai has not set up adequate recycling infrastructure to support this
type of bottles.

4) We have a bottle bill on the island with local redemption centers.
The bill is a little less than 2 years old and we are just getting the
general public educated on what is considered redeemable vs. recyclable.
I am concerned that the inclusion of these bottles will confuse people
and that many will think they can redeem these bottles and this could
put a kink in our efforts to inform people about what is in and out for

Does anyone have feedback regarding these issues? I am concerned that
these bio-plastics could be more problematic than they are worth.


Diane Rosenkranz
Recycling Specialist
County of Kauai
(808) 241-5112 ph
(808) 241-6892 fax

-----Original Message-----
From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On
Behalf Of Peter Spendelow
Sent: Monday, November 06, 2006 7:53 AM
To: GreenYes
Subject: [GreenYes] Re: Can you feed the stuff to the fish?

I just wanted to clarify that bio-based, biodegradable plastics are not
really a zero-waste solution. They still involve a lot of waste. In
some specific instances, bio-based plastics may be the best option to
serve a particular need, but in other cases they are not.

Remember that when you compost bio-based plastics, you lose all of the
energy and material inputs, including lots of petroleum used as fuel to
make the fertilizers and grow the crops, and you don't even get any
good humus out of them. Bio-based plastics like PLA break down
entirely to carbon dioxide and water, and they do not have any lignins
or other complex organic molecules which are needed to make humus.

A number of non-profit groups including EcoCycle (and Eric has already
commented on this thread) are actively point that out now concerning
PLA being used to make water bottles. Recycling or reusing PLA bottles
has substantial potential for resource savings. Composting PLA bottles
does not, and in fact could be considered 100% waste instead of

Even for cutlery, bio-based plastics are generally not considered the
best solution. Reusable cutlery, such as metal forks and spoons, are
much more "zero waste" as long as you can recapture and re-use a high
proportion of the cutlery. It is only when it is impractical to
recapture the cutlery for reuse that a compostable cutlery might be
considered the next-best option. They may be better than traditional
plastic cutlery made from polystyrene. But they is not zero waste....

Peter Spendelow
Justin Stockdale wrote:

... Is no one concerned that these plastics stand to sanctify the
production of gmo's as environmentally preferable simply because they
fit nicely into the zero waste framework?

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