Good-Edi Newsletter March 2023
Hello from Good-Edi HQ!
Welcome to 2023 and the first edition of our monthly newsletter/blog post! We’ll use this to share updates with you and discuss some topics important to us.
To kick things off, here’s an update from our founders:
"2023 is off to an amazing start here at Good-Edi. We are on track to hit the 200,000 cup milestone very soon. That's right, 200,000 disposable cups diverted from landfill! We want to start with a big THANK YOU to all of our supporters. We would not be where we are today without your help. We'll share more exciting updates in the coming months. In the mean time, we encourage everyone to do something every day to help us ditch single use plastics for good." Cheers, Cat & Aniyo - Good-Edi Founders
Recyclable, biodegradable, compostable… what do they all mean?!
As someone interested in environmentally friendly products, I’m sure you’re on the lookout for ways to reduce your impact on our one planet earth.
This can be difficult to decipher sometimes, especially when many companies have got the gift of the gab suggesting just how eco-friendly their product may be. Some claim to be recyclable, some biodegradable and some compostable. But what’s the difference between these and what do they mean for our environment?
A recyclable product usually means it can be broken down into its composite materials then processed back into the same use, or into something else. Some examples include recycling a plastic bottle back into another bottle, or a plastic bag processed into tarmac for roads. Sounds like a pretty good sustainable option right? We can have what we want now and yet know it will have a second life.
Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with recyclable products. First of all, consumers need to put the recyclable materials in the correct bins or depots. On the account that only 25% of Australians always separate their waste appropriately, we’ve hit our first stumbling block with how sustainable recyclable products can be. These products are just as harmful to our environment as their non-recyclable counterparts if they are not processed properly.
There are also carbon emissions associated with the processing of recycling materials to give them their new life. These are often less than making the product anew but should still be considered when choosing between environmentally friendly products.
Biodegradable products can break down naturally in our environment and are made up of plant fibres (biomass) such as corn. The most common material used is bioplastic. This breaks down faster than normal plastic so may seem like a good option, but let’s look a little closer.
Biodegradable materials can be made up of varying combinations of biomass. This means the time it takes for each material to break down fluctuates, lasting in our environment anywhere from several days to years, particularly if they aren’t disposed of properly.
Due to differing standards of what is biodegradable in each state and country, there are some biodegradable materials that have microscopic plastic toxins still present in them. The main body of the product will break down but there will still be leftover microplastics lasting just as long as conventional plastics in our environment.
Therefore, we need to be careful before buying biodegradable products to find out how fast they will break down and whether they still contain these toxins.
A product is compostable if microbes can break it down completely to organic matter, meaning it is made of 100% biomass. This may be at home or in an industrial facility.
If a product needs industrial composting, we must take into account the transporting and collection of the waste when looking at how environmentally friendly the product is as a whole. As with recyclable products, this can involve high emissions. However, there are also technologies that use the industrial composting process to create biogas, an alternative to natural gas used as a fuel in some countries.
Alternatively, home composting does not involve the same processing emissions but there is no opportunity to produce biogas. Instead, the greenhouse gas methane is released into the atmosphere which is more potent than carbon dioxide though has a shorter atmospheric lifetime.
Again, we can see how there are still some considerations around how sustainable compostable products may be.
Hang on, how about edible products?
So where do edible products fit in? Well, these employ the positives of both their compostable and biodegradable counterparts.
An edible product by definition must be fit for human consumption. This means it is made from 100% biomass and will not require an industrial facility to break down. Therefore, the product is either consumed or breaks down in a matter of weeks in the environment to completely organic matter. Other than food itself, edible products are often the packaging for food, such as our edible coffee cups!
There are still the production emissions to consider, but given the products are made from biomass with no plastic or other fossil fuel component, these are likely far less than recyclable or biodegradable options. They will release methane into the atmosphere too, but this is just the same as any food item.
Overall, there are pros and cons to all these. Our key takeaway is ensuring you ask yourself the right questions before purchasing any environmentally friendly product.
Some recommendations are:
- What is this product made of?
- What were the emissions involved in making it?
- What will happen to it after I use it?
- Will I be able to dispose of it appropriately?
- How long will it take to breakdown, and will this be to fully organic matter?
Depending on your individual values, the answers to these might lean you in the direction of one over the other, and that’s okay! We’re all on our own journeys and no two will be the same. Whatever your decision, we hope this helps you make it.
Blog post by Genevieve Ladd for Good-Edi.