Sunday, May 23, 2010

Evidence of the benefits of organic food

Defining the benefits of organic food has largely been left to word of mouth, occasional media coverage, and the promotional efforts of organic advocates. Even though many large food and beverage corporations, like Kraft Foods, have rapidly moved to acquire significant stake in both fresh and processed organic products, the specific sales points of "organics" go largely unmentioned on product packaging and in advertising.

These comparisons need to be evaluated with care because neither conventional nor organic farming practices are uniform.
For the environment
In several surveys that have looked at smaller studies to build an overall comparison between conventional and organic systems of farming a general agreement on benefits has been built. In these surveys it has been found that:
*Organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides or herbicides into the environment - some of which have the potential to harm local wildlife.
*Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems. That is, populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.
*When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield: Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste - waste such as packaging materials for chemicals.
See "Organic FAQs" in the journal Nature for more details.
One study found a 20% smaller yield from organic farms using 50% less fertilizer and 97% less pesticide. Studies comparing yields have had mixed results. Supporters claim that organically managed soil has a higher quality and higher water retention. This may help increase yields for organic farms in drought years. One study of two organic farming systems and one conventional found that, in one year's severe crop season drought, organic soybean yields were 52% and 96% higher than the conventional system and organic maize yields were 37% higher in one system, but 62% lower in the other. Studies are also consistent in showing that organic farms are more energy efficient.
For producers
For those who work on farms, there have been many studies on the health effects of pesticide exposure. Even when pesticides are used correctly, they still end up in the air and bodies of farm workers. Through these studies, organophosphate pesticides have become associated with acute health problems such as abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, as well as skin and eye problems. In addition, there have been many other studies that have found pesticide exposure is associated with more severe health problems such as respiratory problems, memory disorders, dermatologic conditions, cancer, depression, neurologic deficits, miscarriages, and birth defects. Summaries of peer-reviewed research have examined the link between pesticide exposure and neurological outcomes and cancer in organophosphate-exposed workers.
For consumers
A study publish by the National Research Council in 1993 determined that for infants and children, the major source of exposure to pesticides is through diet. A recent study in 2006 measured the levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 school children before and after replacing their diet with organic food. In this study it was found that levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when the children switched to an organic diet.
Most conventionally grown foods contain pesticides and herbicide residues. There is controversial data on the health implications of certain pesticides. The herbicide Atrazine, for example, has been shown in some experiments to be a teratogen, even at concentrations as low as 0.1 part per billion, to emasculate male frogs by causing their gonads to produce eggs effectively turning males into hermaphrodites.
The US Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies periodically review the licensing of suspect pesticides, but the process of de-listing is slow. One example of this slow process is exemplified by the pesticide Dichlorvos, or DDVP, which as recently as the year 2006 the EPA proposed its continued sale. The EPA has almost banned this pesticide on several occations since the 1970s, but it never did so despite considerable evidence that suggests DDVP is not only carcinogenic but dangerous to the human nervous system especially in children.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oxo-Biodegradable plastic - FAQ

Oxo-biodegradable plastic - FAQ

Why do we need oxo-biodegradable plastic?
Because in no country in the world will it be possible to collect and dispose responsibly of all the plastic. Thousands of tons of plastic waste are entering the world's environment every day, and will remain there for hundreds of years.

How does it work?
A very small amount of a pro-degradant formulation is put into the manufacturing process. This breaks the molecular chains in the polymer, and at the end of its useful life the product self-destructs.

Does it really biodegrade, or does it just fragment?
The product does not just fragment, but will be consumed by bacteria and fungi after the additive has reduced the molecular weight to a level which permits micro-organisms access to the carbon and hydrogen. It is therefore "biodegradable". The process of degradation continues, provided that oxygen is present, until the material has biodegraded to nothing more than CO2, water, humus and trace elements, and it does not leave fragments of petro-polymers in the soil.

What does it cost?
Very little, because the additive represents only a tiny proportion of the product, and because the products can be made with the same machines, raw materials, and workforce as ordinary plastic.

Won't it put existing factories out of business, with loss of jobs?
No, because customers can still use the factories which supply them with ordinary plastic products. The products can be made with the same machines, raw materials, and workforce as ordinary plastic.

What types of biodegradable plastics exist?
The two main types are oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable. In both cases degradation begins with a chemical process (oxidation or hydrolysis respectively), followed by a biological process. Both types emit CO2 as they degrade, but hydro-biodegradables (usually crop-based) can also emit methane deep in landfill. Only oxo-biodegradable can be recycled with ordinary plastic. Hydro-biodegradables would ruin a recycling process.

What are the differences between oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable plastic?
Navigate from the Home-Page to "Position-Papers" then "Comparison of oxo and hydro."

Surely education is the way to solve the litter problem?
Hopefully education will reduce the litter problem over several generations, but large quantities of plastic waste will always find their way deliberately or accidentally into the open environment. Action needs to be taken today to switch to oxo-biodegradable before millions more tons of plastic waste accumulate in the environment.
Isn't it better to recycle than to let it biodegrade?
Yes, and one of the benefits of oxo-biodegradable plastic is that it can be recycled as part of a normal plastic waste stream (See Position Paper on Recycling). However, if the plastic is not collected it cannot be recycled, so it needs to self-destruct instead of accumulating in the environment.

What about energy recovery?
In some countries incineration is popular, and the necessary equipment is in place. Oxo-biodegradable plastic can be incinerated with energy recovery in the same way as conventional plastic, and has a higher calorific value than the hydro-biodegradable alternative.

Can it be composted?
Oxo-biodegradable plastic does not degrade quickly in low temperature "windrow" composting, but it can be composted by industrial "in-vessel" processes at the higher temperatures required by the EU animal by-products regulations. Indeed it is likely that windrow composting will soon have to be phased out for wastes streams which contain or might contain food wastes. (See Position Paper on Composting).
Biodegradation in the environment is NOT the same thing as composting.
Composting is an artificial process operated to a much shorter timescale than the processes of nature. Standards (such as ASTM D6400, EN 13432, and Australian Standard 4736) designed for compostable plastic are not therefore appropriate for plastic which is designed to self-destruct if it gets into the environment.

What happens to it in a landfill?
Oxo-biodegradable plastics degrade in the surface layers of the lanfill, but the residues are completely inert deeper in the landfill in the absence of oxygen. They do not emit methane. By contrast, hydro-biodegradable (starch-based) plastics will degrade and emit CO2 in the surface layers of a landfill if there is enough microbial activity. However, in the depths of a landfill, in the absence of air, Hydro-biodegradable plastics generate methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Does it contain "metals"?
It contains transition metal ions of Cobalt or Iron or Manganese, which are trace elements required in the human diet. They should not be confused with toxic heavy metals such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Chromium, which are never used in oxo-biodegradable plastics. Also metal salts should not be confused with the metals themselves. Eg pure sodium is dangerous, but sodium chloride is table salt.

Please see this article for details.
Isn't it made from oil?
Oxo-biodegradable plastics are currently made from naptha, which is a by-product of oil refining, which used to be wasted. Oil is of course a finite resource, but this by-product arises because the world needs fuels and oils for engines, and would arise whether or not the by-product were used to make plastic goods.

Unless the oil is left under the ground, carbon dioxide will inevitably be released, but until other fuels and lubricants have been developed for engines, it makes good environmental sense to use the by-product, and using scarce agricultural resources to make plastics.

Recently, interest has been shown in manufacturing sugar-derived polyethylenes. These, like oil-derived PE, are not biodegradable, but they can be made oxo-biodegradable in the same way as the latter, by the addition of a pro-degradant additive.

But aren't the hydro-biodegradable plastics renewable?
No. because the process of making them from crops is itself a significant user of fossil-fuel energy and a producer therefore of greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels are burned in the machines used to clear and cultivate the land, and in the manufacture and transport of fertilisers and pesticides and in the manufacture and transport of fertlisers and pesticides and in transporting the crop itself. Energy is also used by the autoclaves used to ferment and polymerise material synthesised from biochemically produced intermediates (e.g. polylactic acid from carbohydrates etc). When the material biodegrades it emits CO2 and methane, so the total fossil fuels used and greenhouse gases emitted are more than for conventional or oxo-biodegradable plastic. Hydro-biodegradables are sometimes described as made from "non-food" crops, but are in fact usually made from food crops, and drive up the price of human and animal food.

Does it leave any harmful residues?
No. Oxo-biodegradable plastic passes all the usual ecotoxicity tests, including seed germination, plant growth and organism survival (daphnia, earthworms). Ecotoxicity tests are carried out in accordance with ASTM D6954 and EN 13432 standards.

Can it be re-used?
Yes. Oxo-biodegradable plastic is particularly useful for short-life items like carrier-bags. The useful life an oxo-biodegradable carrier-bag is typically 18 months, and during that time the bags are often used many times for many purposes - finally ending up as bin-liners. Efforts to ban plastic carrier-bags mean that families have to buy bin-liners. This is good business for the supermarkets but not so good for the family.

Deliberately and totally lost?
The argument that oxo-biodegradable plastics are undesirable because their components are designed to be deliberately and totally lost is a fallacy, because if people want to incinerate with heat-recovery, or mechanically recycle them, or compost them in-vessel, or re-use them, then that's OK, and they cost very little if anything more than conventional products.
The key point is what happens to the plastic which is not collected, and gets into the environment?
In any event, oxo-biodegradable plastics are not "deliberately and totally lost" even if they degrade in the environment, because biodegradation on land is a source of plant nutrients, just as is straw, grass, leaves etc.

More careless disposal?
Degradable plastic bags have been supplied by supermarkets for more than five years, but there is no evidence that people dispose more carelessly of them (whether oxo or hydro biodegradable) and they have not been encouraged to do so. But suppose for the sake of argument that 10% more were discarded. If 1,000 conventional and 1,100 oxo-biodegradable bags were left uncollected in the environment, 1,000 conventional bags would remain in the rivers, streets and fields for decades, but none of the oxo-biodegradable bags would be left at the end of the short life programmed into them at manufacture.

There will always be people who will deliberately or accidentally discard their plastic waste. What will happen to all the plastic waste that will not be recycled or will not be incinerated, and instead will litter the countryside - would it not be better if the discarded plastic were all oxo-biodegradable?

Is it safe for food-contact?
Yes. Oxo-biodegradable plastic has been certified by RAPRA Technology Analytical Laboratories as safe for long-term contact with any food type at temperatures up to 40oC. RAPRA is accredited by the United Kingdom accreditation authorities as meeting the requirements of International Standards Organisation norm no. 17025. It is also certified for food-contact according to US and Brazilian regulations.

In September 2007 the Commercial Packaging Manager of the Co-op said "I am happy to say that we are using Oxo-biodegradable polythene films for direct food contact applications. We currently use these materials for pre-packed produce, self serve produce, pre-packed bread, frozen vegetables and fresh turkeys as well as for carrier bags. The approval for use has been based on the very strict EU requirements under EU Directives 2002/72/EC and 2004/19/EC relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs. We have been using these materials for food contact use since 2004."

Can it be marketed as Biodegradable or Compostable?
The current EU Standard for composting (EN13432) is not appropriate for testing oxo-biodegradable plastic. However the EU Packaging Waste Directive does NOT require that when a packaging product is marketed as "degradable" or "compostable" conformity with the Directive must be assessed by reference to EN13432. The Directive provides that conformity with its essential requirements may be presumed if EN 13432 is complied with, but it does not exclude proof of conformity by other evidence, such as a report from a reputable body. Indeed Annex Z of EN13432 itself says that it provides only one means of conforming with the essential requirements.

Isn't it better to use paper bags?
No. The process of making paper bags causes 70% more atmospheric pollution than plastic bags. Paper bags use 300% more energy to produce, and the process uses huge amounts of water and creates very unpleasant organic waste. When they degrade they emit methane and carbon dioxide.

A stack of 1000 new plastic carrier bags would be around 2 inches high, but a stack of 1000 new paper grocery bags could be around 2 feet high. It would take at least seven times the number of trucks to deliver the same number of bags, creating seven times more transport pollution and road congestion.

Also, because paper bags are not as strong as plastic, people may use two or three bags inside each other. Paper bags cannot normally be re-used, and will disintegrate if wet.

Isn't it better to use durable re-usable bags?
No. Long-term re-usable shopping bags are not the answer. They are much thicker and more expensive, and a large number of them would be required for the weekly shopping of an average family. 30,000 jute or cotton bag can be packed into a 20-foot container, but the same container will accommodate 2.5 million plastic carrier-bags. Therefore, to transport the same number of jute or cotton bags 80x more ships and trucks would be required than for plastic bags, using 80x more fuel and emitting 80x more CO2. Cloth bags are not hygienic if a tomato is squashed or milk is spilled. Research by Guelph Chemical Laboratories in Canada in 2008 Microbiological Study of Reusable Grocery Bags has shown that "re-usable grocery bags can become an active microbial habitat and a breeding-ground for bacteria, yeast, mold, and coliforms...The unacceptable presence of coliforms - ie intestinal bacteria, in some of the bags tested, suggests that forms of E.Coli associated with severe disease could be present an a small but significant proportion of the bags".

Whilst sometimes called "Bags for Life" they have a limited life, depending on the treatment they receive, and become a very durable form of litter when discarded. Shoppers do not always go to the shop from home, where the re-usable bags would normally be kept, and consumers are unlikely to have a re-usable bag with them when buying on impulse items such as clothing, groceries, CDs, magazines, stationery etc. Research conducted for the Scottish Government carrier bag case studies showed that 92 per cent of people think re-using carrier bags is good for the environment but 59 per cent forget their re-usable bags to take new ones at the checkout.
As durable bags are a cost to the consumer and carrier-bags are a cost to the supermarket, one can easily understand why supermarkets are in favour of reducing the number of carrier bags and increasing the number od durable bags!

For those who believe in long-term re-usable bags, they can be made from washable extended-life oxo-biodegradable plastic and will last for 3-5 years.

How long does it take to completely degrade?
An important advantage of oxo-biodegradable plastic is that it can be programmed to degrade in whatever timescale is required. The average useful life of a carrier bag is about 18 months. During that time bags are often re-used for shopping or for use as bin-liners etc.

What products are available in oxo-biodegradable plastic?
• Carrier bags or "shopper-bags" which consumers use to take away their purchases from the shop
• Refuse sacks, which consumers buy in rolls at the shop, and use for disposal of their ordinary household waste.
• Aprons, for the protection of garments, in the home, hospitals, restaurants, workshops etc.
• Bags to contain dog faeces collected in parks, gardens, etc
• Bin liners
• Gloves
• Plastic sheeting for a variety of applications in agriculture and horticulture.
• Plastic film for wrapping newspapers and magazines.
• Bread bags
• Frozen food bags
• Wrappers for cigarette packets
• Shrink-wrap and pallet-wrap
• "Bubble-wrap
• Rigid products such as bottles and cups.
More products will become available in due course.
Oxo-biodegradable plastic has now been adpoted by major companies around the world. These organisations take many months, and sometimes years to evaluate the evidence before buying oxo-biodegradable plastic.

What national or international standards exist?
Oxo-biodegradable plastic can be tested according to American Standard ASTM D6954-04 for Plastics that Degrade in the environment by a Combination of Oxidation and Biodegradation.
Until recently there was no standard in Europe designed to test oxo-biodegradable plastic. However, in July 2007 the French Standards organisation, AFNOR, published XP T 54-980, which is a Standard for oxo-biodegradable plastics in agriculture. A draft standard 8472 capable of measuring oxo-biodegradation was prepared by the British Standards Institution.

European standard EN 13432 applies only to plastic packaging, and was written before oxo-biodegradable plastics became popular. It is not appropriate for testing oxo-biodegradable plastics because it is based on measuring the emission of carbon dioxide during degradation. Hydro-biodegradable plastic is compliant with EN 13432, precisely because it emits CO2 (a greenhouse gas) at a high rate. Another unsatisfactory feature of EN 13432 is that it requires almost complete conversion of the carbon in the plastic to CO2, thus depriving the resulting compost of carbon, which is needed for plant growth, and wasting it by emission to atmosphere.
Conversion of organic materials to CO2 at a rapid rate during the composting process is not "recovery" as required by the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC as amended), and should not be part of a standard for composting. Nature's lignocellulosic wastes do not behave in this way, and if they did the products would have little value as soil improvers and fertilisers, having lost most of their carbon.

If a leaf were subjected to the CO2 emission tests included in EN13432 it would not be not pass! Of course leaves are not required to pass any such test but it demonstrates how artificial the test is.

Packaging made from oxo-biodegradable plastic complies with para. 3(a), (b) and (d) of Annex II of the European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC (as amended) on Packaging and Packaging Waste. This Annex specifies the essential requirements for the composition, and the reusable and recoverable, including recyclable, nature of packaging.

Oxo-biodegradable plastic satisfies para. 3(a) because it can be recycled. It satisfies para. 3(b) because it can be incinerated. It satisfies para. 3(d) because it is capable of undergoing physical, chemical, thermal or biological decomposition such that most of the finished compost ultimately decomposes into carbon dioxide, biomass and water.

Can it be Recycled?
Yes it can - see this article for details
Is it a good idea to ban plastic bags?
No. See Position Paper on "Plastic Bag Bans"

Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics

20 Hanover Square, London W1S 1JY, England

© Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association 2009
ISO 17088, ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, and Australian 4736-2006). This is not correct.
EBP knows that while these standards are appropriate for composting they are not suitable for products designed to biodegrade in the environment. Indeed EN13432 itself says that is not appropriate for plastic waste which may end up in the environment through uncontrolled means.

Composting is not the same as biodegradation in the environment, as it is an artificial process operated according to a much shorter timescale than the processes of nature. I am a member of the relevant European standards committees, and have found that the “compostable” plastics industry has consistently lobbied to prevent the amendment of EN13432 to include tests suitable for plastics which are designed to biodegrade in the environment - because they have a commercial interest against a European Standard with tests appropriate to oxo-bio.
Consistent with this approach, EBP have disputed the validity of statements that oxobio products will biodegrade - on the ground that this could not be verified according to a recognised international standard. This is also incorrect. Oxo-biodegradable plastic products are normally tested according to ASTM D6954-04 “Standard Guide for Exposing and Testing Plastics that Degrade in the Environment by a Combination of Oxidation and Biodegradation.” There are two types of Standards – Standard Guides and Standard Specifications ASTM 6954 is an acknowledged and respected Standard Guide for performing laboratory tests on oxobiodegradable plastic. It has been developed and published by ASTM International –the American standards organisation – and it is impossible to say that it is not a recognised standard. The second Tier of ASTM D6954-04 is directed specifically to proving biodegradation.
Para 4.1 provides that “The guide may be used to compare and relatively rank, the rate and degree of thermal oxidative degradation of a plastic material to a molecular weight range that can be established as biodegradable in a chosen environment. Subsequently, the biodegradation of these degraded polymers in diverse environments such as soil, compost, landfill, and water may be compared and ranked using standard biometric test methods and measuring carbon dioxide evolution.”

The tests performed according to ASTM D6954-04 tell industry and consumers what they need to know – namely whether the plastic is (a) degradable (b) biodegradable and (c) non eco-toxic. It is not necessary to refer to a Standard Specification unless it is desired to use the material for a particular purpose such as composting. Note 3 to ASTM D6954-04 provides that if composting is the designated disposal route, ASTM D6400 should be used. ASTM D6954-04 not only provides detailed test methods but it also provides pass/fail criteria. For example, para. 6.6.1 requires that 60 % of the organic carbon must be converted to carbon dioxide. Therefore if the material does not achieve 60% mineralisation the test cannot be completed and the material cannot be certified. Having achieved 60% mineralisation, the Note to para. 6.6.1 provides that testing may be continued to better determine the length of time the materials will take to biodegrade. It is not however necessary to continue the test until 100% has been achieved, because it is possible, by applying the Arrhenius relationship to the test results, to predict the time at which complete biodegradation is likely to occur. It is in fact difficult to keep microorganisms working for years in closed respirometric cells. It is known that many soil microorganisms are unable to be cultured in a © Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association 2009 laboratory and so it is already an artificial approximation to take microorganisms from the environment and observe them in the laboratory. They live in consortia with many other organisms, especially fungi and bacteria, under natural aeration and rainwater flow, changing mass and energy.

There is no requirement in ASTM D6954-04 for the plastic to be converted to C02 in 180 days because, while timescale is critical in an industrial composting process, it is not critical for biodegradation in the environment. Timescale in the natural environment depends on the amount of heat, light, and stress to which the material is subjected. Nature’s wastes such as leaves twigs and straw may take ten years or more to biodegrade, but oxo-bio plastics will biodegrade more quickly than that, and much more quickly than ordinary plastic.

In oxo-biodegradable plastics there are anti-oxidants mixed with the resins, and they must be consumed before degradation starts. People sometimes do not understand this sequence and conclude that the additives do not work. An induction period must elapse before degradation starts, due to the presence of the anti-oxidants.

The requirement in EN13432 and similar standards for 90% conversion to CO2 gas within 180 days is not useful even for composting, because it contributes to climate change instead of contributing to the fertility of the soil. “Compostable” plastic, 90% of which has been converted to CO2 gas, is virtually useless in compost. Nature's lignocellulosic wastes do not behave in this way. Composting of organic waste makes sense, but “compostable” plastic does not. It is up to 400% more expensive than ordinary plastic; it is thicker and heavier and requires more trucks to transport it. If buried in landfill, compostable plastic can emit methane, which is a greenhouse gas 23 times more destructive than CO2.

In addition, starch-based plastic is unlikely to be strong enough for weight-bearing packaging unless mixed with oil-based plastic. It is not even “renewable” because large amounts of non-renewable hydrocarbons are likely to be burned by the machines used to produce and polymerise the crop. It makes little sense at a time when there is concern about food-security, to use scarce land and water to grow crops to make plastic bags.
Tests on oxo-biodegradable plastic products are usually conducted according to the test methods prescribed by ASTM D6954-04 by independent laboratories such as Smithers-RAPRA (US/UK), Pyxis (UK), Applus (Spain), etc. I have seen many laboratory test reports and am satisfied that if properly manufactured, oxo-bio products will totally biodegrade in the presence of oxygen.

Conditions in the laboratory are designed to simulate so far as possible conditions in the real world, but have to be accelerated in order that tests may be done in a reasonable time. Pre-treatment does not invalidate the results as extrapolated to real-world conditions. There is no evidence that degradable plastics (whether oxo or hydro) have encouraged littering. Oxo-bio plastic can be recycled in the same way as ordinary plastic (see, and does not need special collection points. By contrast, “compostable” plastic cannot be recycled with ordinary plastic, and will ruin See
© Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association 2009 the recycling process if it gets into the waste stream. Recyclers should therefore be very worried about bio-based plastics – but not about oxo-bio. EBP also says “An environmental claim that is vague or non-specific or which broadly implies that a product is environmentally beneficial or environmentally benign shall not be used.” Reputable companies in the oxo-bio sector do not make such claims. EBP quotes the definition of “degradable” according to the ISO 14021 standard as:

“A characteristic of a product or packaging that, with respect to specific conditions, allows it to break down to a specific extent within a given time". Oxo-bio products possess this characteristic. Oxo-degradation has been defined by CEN/TR15351-06 (published by the European Standards Organisation) as “degradation identified as resulting from oxidative cleavage of macromolecules.” And oxo-biodegradation as “degradation identified as resulting from oxidative and cell-mediated phenomena, either simultaneously or successively.” This is exactly what oxo-bio plastic does.”


1. The main benefit of oxo-biodegradability is not for plastic waste which is sent to landfill, but for plastic waste which gets out into the environment, where it will accumulate for many decades on land and in the oceans.

2. Some plastic waste will of course be collected and sent to landfill, but oxo-biodegradable1 plastic waste should not be sent to landfill at all. After collection it should be recycled2, or incinerated for energy-recovery. However, the recycling option for a normal plastic waste stream is not practicable for hydro-biodegradable3 plastics, which have to be treated separately and at high cost. Also, hydro-biodegradable plastics have a lower calorific value when incinerated.

3. The aims of the EU Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC (as amended4) are stated in the following recitals at the beginning of the document:

4. (3) the prevention, recycling and recovery of waste should be encouraged as should the use of recovered materials and energy so as to safeguard natural resources and obviate wasteful use of land.

5. Oxo-biodegradable plastics, like their traditional counterparts, can be re-used during their useful life and/or recycled and incinerated with high energy-recovery.
6. The most valuable asset for a landfill-operator is space. Plastic bags are extremely compact, and plastic grocery bags and all plastic retail bags together take up less than 1% of space in landfills - a tiny amount. However, conventional plastic bags take up more space than necessary because they trap air, they do not disintegrate rapidly, and thus inhibit the decomposition of their contents in the landfill.

7. Most commercially available oxo-biodegradable plastics will disintegrate in the surface layers of a landfill so long as oxygen is present. Oxygen levels will vary according to factors such as how loose or compressed the waste was when it was buried, how much u/v light is available, and how much further waste material or earth is added to the landfill over what period of time. A fragmented oxo-biodegradable bag will settle more easily than an ordinary plastic bag with trapped contents, and will occupy less space. Test reports for individual products will measure the ability of the material to degrade within a reasonable period.

8. (4) further consideration should be given to the issues of incineration of municipal and non-hazardous waste, composting, biomethanisation, and the processing of dredging sludges;

9. Oxo-biodegradable plastics can be incinerated with high energy recovery.
(12) protective measures [should] be taken against any threat to the environment in the short as well as in the long-term perspective, and more especially against the pollution of groundwater by leachate infiltration into the soil.

10. Oxo-biodegradable plastics do not cause harmful leachate infiltration, and commercial oxo-biodegradable additives approved by the OPA have been certified non eco-toxic.

11. (16) measures should be taken to reduce the production of methane gas from landfills, inter alia, in order to reduce global warming, through the reduction of the landfill of biodegradable waste and the requirements to introduce landfill gas control;

12. Hydro-biodegradable ("compostable") plastics will biodegrade and emit CO2 at a high rate in the surface layers of a landfill if there is enough microbial activity, and in the depths of a landfill, in the absence of air, they generate methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is also highly combustible and is a cause of explosions.

13. Decomposition deep in a landfill is not therefore desirable. Whilst oxo-biodegradable plastics fragment and biodegrade in the upper layers of the landfill (see above) and emit CO2 at a low rate there in the presence of oxygen, they are completely inert deeper in the landfill in the absence of oxygen.

14. Article 2 (m) of the Landfill Directive defines "biodegradable waste" as "any waste that is capable of undergoing anaerobic or aerobic decomposition, such as food and garden waste and paper and cardboard." However, the reason stated in recital 16 above for reducing the landfill of biodegradable waste does not apply to oxo-biodegradable plastics because, as indicated in para. 13 above, they are completely inert in the landfill in anaerobic conditions - unlike food and garden waste, paper, cardboard, and hydro-biodegradable plastics, which all emit methane.

15. It is an important factor that an oxo-biodegradable plastic bag is much lighter than a paper, cotton, or jute bag, and is even lighter than a hydro-biodegradable bag5. As municipalities and waste-management companies have to pay to put trash in landfills, and as charges are based on weight, it costs much more to put paper, cotton, jute or hydro-biodegradable plastic bags in a landfill than ordinary or oxo-biodegradable plastic bags.

16. The Report on "The impacts of degradable plastic bags in Australia" prepared by ExcelPlas/ Nolan-ITU on 11 September 2003 for the Australian Government noted at 7.3 that: "[hydro] degradable polymers with starch content have higher impacts upon greenhouse due to methane emissions during landfill degradation and N2O emissions from fertilizing crops." Methane is 23 times more potent for global warming6 than CO2.
1. made from a by-product of oil in the same way as ordinary plastic, but with a pro-degradant additive which breaks the molecular chains and causes the material to degrade then biodegrade.
2. See OPA Position Paper on Recycling
3. Usually made from corn starch or other agricultural derivatives
4. 1882 of 2003
5. depending on the type of plastic, hydro-biodegradables are between 40% and 150% thicker and heavier than oxo-biodegradables for the same strength.
6. IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) Report page 47
© Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association 2009
Scientific Advisory Board: Chairman - Professor Gerald Scott (UK), Professor Jaques Lemaire1 (France), Professor Ignacy Jakubowicz2 (Sweden), Professor Telmo Ojeda (Brazil)3, Dr. Prakash Hebbar (USA)4

18th August 2009
On 22 July 2009 ”European Bio-plastics” (a Trade Association for the hydrobiodegradable or “compostable” plastics industry) published an extraordinary attack on the oxo-biodegradable plastics industry. The Chairman of the OPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, Professor Gerald Scott6 DSc, FRSC, C.Chem, FIMMM, has responded as follows:

“Oxo-bio plastic is intended to harmlessly degrade then biodegrade if it gets into the open environment. All plastics will eventually become embrittled, and will fragment and be bioassimilated, and the only difference made by oxo-biodegradable technology is that the process is accelerated. For millions of years nature has had enzymes known as oxygenases, which will degrade hydrocarbons, whether oxidized or not. The problem with the modern (xenobiotic) plastic molecules is that they are too long (increased by lack of polarity, crystallinity and chain rigidity). The pro-degradant additives which cause accelerated degradation are usually compunds of cobalt, iron, nickel or manganese and are added to conventional plastics at the time of manufacture. These reduce the molecular weight of the material over a pre-determined period – allowing them to be ultimately consumed by bacteria and fungi. The additives have themselves been tested and proved not to be eco-toxic. They do not contain “heavy metals.”

About 20 billion oxo-biodegradable plastic products were made in the last year. Reputable companies in the oxo-bio sector do not make “self-declared” claims – their products are subjected to independent testing, based on well-established science. The issues raised by EBP are not about clarification – they seem to me to be an attempt to confuse the public by suggesting that a plastic product is not “biodegradable” unless it can comply with EN13432 (and similar standards such as:

1. Professor of Chemistry at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Clermont-Ferrand and Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand).
2. Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry, University of Gothenburg
3. Instituto Federal de Educação Ciência e Tecnologia Sul-Rio-Grandense, Brasil
4. Ph. D. Australian National University, Molecular Microbial Ecology; M. Sc. Medical Microbiology, and B. Sc., Botany, Zoology and Chemistry, Mysore University, India.
5. They have another trade association in the US called the “Biodegradable Products Institute” (BPI) which regularly makes similar allegations.
6 Professor Emeritus in Chemistry and Polymer Science of Aston University, UK; Chairman of the British Standards Institute Committee on Biodegradability of Plastics.
7 See eg Degradable Polymers: Principles and Applications, Kluwer, 2002, Chapter 3

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cellular Anti-Aging Benefits

Fights Cellular Aging…and More*

An all-natural, patent-pending formulation, Vivix is a unique blend of polyphenols which have been shown in laboratory studies to positively impact the four mechanisms of cellular aging*:

Protect and repair cellular DNA.

Positively impact genetic regulators, which help turn down cellular aging.
Promote mitochondrial biogenesis, which helps increase power production within the cells.

Vivix polyphenols are 10x more powerful than resveratrol alone in slowing the formation of AGE protein

In addition, Vivix Also Supports*
Heart health and cardiovascular function
Brain health
Enhanced Immunity
Joint health
Promotes cellular longevity
Helps Increase cellular energy
Promotes good health and well being
Delivers antioxidant support
Vivix ingredients are all natural
No artificial colors
No artificial flavors
No artificial sweeteners
No preservatives
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Friday, February 5, 2010


We are aha Organic, a grocery store cum cafe, a one stop, convenient place where you can eat healthy, shop healthy and enviromentally friendly, and you can also enjoy the work of artists in our artist corner!

aha Organic is a place which is very comfortable and home-like. You can enjoy a bowl of slow-cook, oil free spaghetti, while admiring the wonderful works of art. then, you can go downstairs, grab a quick snack and head off to whereever you wanted to go to.

aha Organic also strongly supports many health and environment foundations, and our intention is to create a healthier, happier world, with citizens who can enjoy healthy lifestyles.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's the big deal about Organic Food?

For the vast majority of human history, agriculture could be described as organic. Only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply. This more recent style of production is referred to as 'conventional', though organic production has been the convention for a much longer period of time. Under organic production, the use of conventional non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides is greatly restricted and saved as a last resort. However. Contrary to popular belief, certain non-organic fertilizers are still used. If livestock are involved,they must be reared without the antibiotic use of growth hormones, and generally fed a healthy diet. In most countries,organic products may not be genetically modified. It has been suggested that the application of nanotechnology to food and agriculture is a further technology that needs to be excluded from the certified organic food.

The History Of Organic Food
Historically, organic farms have been relatively small run family businesses, which is why organic food was once available in small stores or markets only. However, since the early 1990s organic food production has had a growth rate of around 20% a year, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations. As of April 2008, organic food accounts for 1-2%of food sales worldwide.
Where can we get organic food?
Well, there are a lot of places, depending on where you live, but if you live in Kuching... you can definitely find a wide selection of food at AHA ORGANIC!


Buying organic food promotes a less toxic and healthier environment for all living things, including humans. Many living things are now exposed to a number of noxious agricultural chemicals. Supporting organic agriculture doesn't only help your family, but it also helps all of the families live less toxic lives.

Industrial agriculture not only pollutes farmland and farm workers; it also wreaks havoc on the environment downstream. Pesticide drifts affect non-farm communities with odorless and invisible poisons. Synthetic fertilizer drifting downstream is the main culprit for dead zones in delicate ocean environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where its dead zone is now larger than 22,000 square kilometers, an area larger than New Jersey, according to Science Magazine, August 2002.

before a mother first nurses her newborn, the toxic risk from pesticides has already begun. Studies show that hundreds of innocent infants are exposed to agricultural and industrial chemicals, whose safety was deemed on adult tolerance levels, not on children's. According to the national academy of Science, 'neurological and behavioral effects will show that pesticides can adversely affect the numerous systems, increase the risk of cancer and decrease fertility.

Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizer dependency has taken a toll with a loss of top soil estimated at a cost of $4o billion per year in the U.S, according to David Pimental of Cornell University. Add to this an equally disturbing loss of micro nutrients and minerals in vegetables and fruits. Feeding ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has proven to increase nutrients in produce, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in organic food, according to the 2005 study, 'Elevating Antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing,' Organic Center State of Science revealed.

Comparing the taste of organic and non organic products, organic fruits and vegetables are more juicy and sweet. Genetically engineered agriculture may seem big and tasty, but the true flavor lies within organic products.

After all that, hope you are more aware of the reasons to go organic!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Eat Right.............Feel Right

We eat because we need to and because we enjoy it. Mealtimes are usually kept sacred to families as those are the only times we catch up with each other's lives. Not only do we share food, we share pieces of our lives as we recount our routines and experiences of the day. This is a ritual where we eat to nourish our bodies while we nourish our emotions with the company we spend with.

Unfortunately, we tend to let the hectic lifestyle of today affects this important ritual. Meals are chosen because it can be prepared in the quickest amount of time; it doesn't matter if it has little nutritional value. Everyone is so busy with their own lives that we hardly find time to enjoy each other's company over a good meal. It has become the age of fast food and 'poor' living.

Too much of anything leads to 'poor' body, mind and soul, creating imbalances in our lives - from the inside out. Our bodies react in self-defense. Too much rich food may result in built-up of excess cholesterol in the arteries - a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Too little zinc in our diets - a necessary element in the oil-producing glands of the skin - may result in acne breakouts. Little interaction with family and friends leads to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Organic Definitions

Organic produce is grown and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals, artificial fertilisers, food irradiation or genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). Organic farming focuses on the health of the soil and utilises the best of both traditional agriculture and modern techniques to produce nutritious fruits and vegetables with minimal intervention. Organic farming also cares for our environment through the use of renewable resources and a commitment to the conservation of energy, soil and water. Buying certified organic means that the produce has passed the stringent requirements of a 3-year certification process, ensuring integrity for the consumer.
Non-organic (or conventional)
Non-organic (often called 'conventional') produce is grown and handled with regular commercial methods which may include the use of synthetic chemicals, artificial fertilisers, food irradiation and genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).

Organic In Conversion
The full organic certification process for a farm takes three years. This length of time allows for soil regeneration using the earth's natural resources. After 12 months of using organic farming methods, the produce can be labelled organic in conversion. This means the farm has been audited at least once and is abiding by all necessary requirements. As a customer, your purchase of organic in conversion produce at a premium recognises the additional work and costs involved in the conversion process - so you are helping to invest in a sustainable future.

Other glossary terms (in alphabetical order)
Food additive. An artificial component of many conventional foods. Used in food to put back the taste that processing often removes, to prevent spoilage, extend shelf life and improve the texture, colour or flavour of foods. Up to 500 are allowed in conventional food, with only around 40 permitted for use in organic food manufacturing.

Antibiotic. Substance used to destroy or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms. Side effect in usage for livestock is that overuse of antibiotics is allowing bacteria to develop resistance, thereby potentially reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics used to treat serious human diseases.

Biodynamic. An enhanced form of organic farming involving cosmic forces and special preparations and composting methods.

Certification. Gaining of certifier approval after organic standard requirements have been met. It is typically a three year process.

Coeliac. A person with gluten intolerance.

Conventional. See Non-Organic Fertiliser Substance used to increase the fertility of soil. Fertilisers can be natural or artificial.

Free range. Free range products come from conventional livestock that are free to move over an area of open ground for part of their day. In many cases the livestock are not treated with antibiotics.

Fair trade. Fair trade is an equitable trade system for developing countries. It provides better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of marginalised producers and workers.

Gluten Plant. Protein found in cereal grains.

Genetic engineering. Radical technology allowing movement of genes between species.