Sustainability Insights

RecyclingSome of the terms associated with sustainability and environmental stewardship can be confusing. Here we provide common definitions to some uncommon words and phrases you may hear or read about.

Biodegradable

Describes material capable of timely decomposition under natural conditions as a result of biological activity. Biodegradable materials can be broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria, enzymes, and fungi or other decomposers.

Compostable

Defines a material susceptible to degradation by biological processes under natural conditions or in industrial compositing facilities, yielding CO2, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and leaving no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.

Sustainable

Signifies responsible use of resources to meet human needs in an economically viable manner, while preserving social well-being and the health of the natural environment so that future generations are able to meet their needs.

Recyclable

Distinguishes material that still has useful physical or chemical properties after serving its original purpose and can, therefore, be remanufactured into new products.

Made with 100% recycled material

Designates that all of the product is made from material that has become “waste”.  This can include both post-consumer material and pre-consumer material.

Made with 30% post-consumer recycled material

Indicates that at least 30% of the material in a product is made from material that has already had a useful life and has been diverted from home, office, retail store or other similar waste streams.

BPA free

Indicates that a product does not contain Bisphenol A, an organic compound used to make hard clear plastic bottles and canned food linings. A recent Food and Drug Administration report notes exposure concerns for fetuses, infants and young children from the use of BPA containing products. Canada was the first to declare BPA a toxic substance in September 2010.

Made from renewable resources

Refers to products that can be regenerated through natural ecological processes and management practices and also replenished at a rate that matches or exceeds the rate of consumption.

Want to learn more? Check back. In the future, we’ll be adding more information, tips, and fun activities for kids.