by Ed Weisberg
ECOgrade degradable bags are rapidly being adopted as a cost-competitive sustainable alternative to plastic carry-out grocery bags. However, at GXT Green our vision for ECOgrade continues to include expansion beyond bags as a sustainable low-cost replacement for plastic. ECOgrade can actually be tuned to be either degradable or not, and can be tailored to replace plastic resin in everything from bags to car bumpers.
Since plastic bag pollution from littered bags is one of the most visible and pressing environmental concerns, our initial focus has been on a ECOgrade replacement for grocery and retail bags. However, we are looking to the future, and are constantly offered suggestions by enthusiastic customers and advocates for new application of ECOgrade. We are now beginning to address these ideas, with some very interesting solutions.
The most impactful use of ECOgrade that we are developing, beyond carry-out bags, is ECOgrade degradable agricultural mulch film. ECOgrade provides a clear and obvious advantage over plastic when used to protect crops. Like plastic, ECOgrade both extends the growing season by keeping the ground warm longer, and saves time and labor by controlling weeds. However unlike plastic, ECOgrade saves tremendously on end-of-season cleanup. Disposal of plastic mulch not only costs about $100/acre to remove the plastic but produces over 143,000 tons of plastic waste in the United States alone, enough to circle the earth over 100 times if lined up end-to-end. ECOgrade agricultural film, on the other hand, can be left to degrade on its own, which it will do in about 240 days, leaving a non-toxic residue. Alternatively, at the end of the season, residual ECOgrade film can be safely collected, burned and the ash used as a soil sweetener, thus eliminating the need to bring it to a landfill. Unlike plastic, which melts and emits toxic vapors when burned, ECOgrade has been proven to burn safely, emitting a minimal amount of white smoke, and leaving behind a soil enriching calcium residue.
In addition, we are being approached by others who have new uses for ECOgrade film. We recently engaged in a discussion with a prominent sustainable clothing manufacturer. Despite their desire to minimize packaging, they have a challenge in their warehouses. As their clothes are sorted and packed, they are transported on conveyor belts, which are not always perfectly clean. Therefore, the clothes must be covered. In the past, they have used conventional plastic bags. However, they realize that covers made with ECOgrade may be the best solution for them. For this application, ECOgrade film can be customized as a sustainable bag that will contain their clothes, with a smaller carbon footprint and the advantage of being more sustainable than plastic. Furthermore, since they currently manufacture bags in their own plant, it will be easy to switch to ECOgrade, with no capital investment.
Of course, ECOgrade can be used for much more than film. Virtually anything made of plastic can be modified and become more sustainable by using ECOgrade. Looking forward, we are excited about the ideas that people keep sending us for new ways to replace plastic with ECOgrade.
Do you have some ideas? Please send them to us today at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thank you.
Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.