These award-winning ‘green’ products come with some disclaimers

Green America logoGreen America (Washington, DC), a green economy organization founded in 1982, just recognized two small businesses for offering plastic-alternative products to help reduce plastic pollution. “No Plastics” was the theme of the award cycle, and the winners of the award and $5,000 were Bee’s Wrap of Middlebury, VT, and bioDOGradable Bags of Lake Forest, CA.

Before you start the applause, let’s look into this a bit deeper. Bee’s Wrap makes “washable, reusable and, ultimately, fully biodegradable food storage wraps handcrafted in Vermont from just four natural ingredients: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)–certified organic cotton, sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin.”

OK, that all sounds pretty “eco-friendly.” It’s even bee-approved! These sandwich wraps are made by brushing the waxy mixture onto the GOTS-certified cloth. But if you think about what it takes to grow cotton, this “alternative” is not that much more eco-friendly than plastic sandwich bags. It still takes fuel to plow the fields and plant the cotton. Organic cotton must mean that no pesticides or defoliating herbicides are used.

I checked out the Global Organic Textile Standard, but it doesn’t cover the growing or harvesting process. It only applies to post-harvesting and manufacturing of the textiles through the supply chain up to labeling. So, I’m not sure just how “organic” these GOTS-certified textiles really are. I’m sure that tree resin is “organic,” but would you want your sandwich wrapped in something containing it?

Online conversations about the the Bee’s Wrap product brought up some interesting points, things that you may not think about at first. For example, wax melts. So, you have to handle it carefully as the warmth of your hands may cause it to become a bit “melty.” From what I read, I don’t think I’d want to wrap my sandwich in Bee’s Wrap and take it for my lunch during the summer in Phoenix. It could be kind of messy unless you put your sandwich in a cooler.

Also, the wraps require some maintenance. You have to keep the wrap cool after you eat your sandwich, so you can take it home and rinse it out in cool water—hot water will melt the wax coating. Because of that, it is not recommended to wrap raw meat in the Bee’s Wrap. That might get a little gross! The wraps are also a bit pricey: $18 for a pack of three.

While the website says Bee’s Wrap products are compostable as well as biodegradable, I’m not sure there are many, if any, composting facilities that will take textiles of any kind, even organic. And we all know what biodegradable means—the material must be left in the open environment where sunlight (warmth), microbes and water can degrade it over time.

While researching this I did find another company in Wisconsin, Bee Wild, that makes the same type of product and offers it as an “environmentally friendly alternative to Toxic Plastic,” as it says on their home page. (Yes, Allan Griff, more of that “toxic plastic” misinformation! So toxic, in fact, that the words had to be capitalized.)

Let’s look at the bioDOGradable Bags made in California. This company makes compostable pet waste bags, which are USDA-certified—I’m not sure why— and are “bio-based and 100% natural, using a patented vegetable blend to minimize pollution from single-use plastic products,” said the company. I’m certain that the pet waste is 100% natural and would compost in your backyard over time, but I couldn’t find any composting facilities that take “pet waste,” because pet waste contains pathogens that are harmful to humans. BioDOGradable’s website warns against disposing of pet waste near vegetable gardens or potable water sources. Polymer bags of any type, even those claiming to be compostable, are not welcome in most composting facilities.

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