Key Terms

Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Join us on ours to better understand our natural world, the latest certifications, and sustainable business practices, and combat greenwashing. We are constantly updating our key terms to help you navigate the latest lingo, research, and innovations in the industry.

Foodservice Packaging

Bagasse

The fibers remaining after the juice of a resource, such as sugarcane or sorghum, has been extracted. These fibers are the foundation of our Better Earth Sugarcane compostable products. 

Biodegradable

Although biodegradable and compostable are often used interchangeably, “biodegradable” is a less precise term. Unlike compostable products, which must break down in about 90-180 days or less and not leave toxicity in the soil, “biodegradable” means a product can break down into carbon dioxide, inorganic compounds and biomass in any given amount of time. The devil is in the details here, as just about anything – from cell phones to batteries – will eventually break down in hundreds, if not thousands, of years, often leaving behind toxic byproducts. We recommend avoiding products that only advertise they are “biodegradable” and do not indicate they are “BPI” and/or “OK Compost” certified or “meet ASTM-D6400 standard.”  

Compostable

Means that a product can break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass in about 90 – 180 days or less with the support of aerobic microorganisms, and that the process leaves no toxicity in the soil (for more information, refer to “composting” below). Compostable products can include food scraps, paper, leaves, as well as certified-compostable foodservice packaging materials like Better Earth. The speed of degradability will vary based on the composition of the product. Pro tip: labels can be misleading. When purchasing compostable products, always look for the words “certified compostable,” “OK Compost,” “BPI-certified,” or “meets ASTM-D6400 standard.”  

Compostable Plastic

See “PLA”

Fluorinated Chemicals (or “PFAS”)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) are a family of chemicals used in a wide range of consumer products that people use daily, like cookware and pizza boxes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, early research suggests PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans and the environment. Better Earth takes these findings very seriously and is actively working with the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and other stakeholders to support our industry in transitioning away from PFAS, as well as ensure our products are above and beyond compliance with new regulations. 

Petrochemical Products

Any products that are derived from petroleum, a fossil fuel. Petrochemicals are incredibly versatile and are incorporated into a wide variety of products from lifesaving medical devices to the more than one trillion single-use plastic bags used annually across the globe, among other single-use plastics. Disposable plastics are causing widespread pollution, contaminating waterways and exacerbating climate change. We recommend replacing single-use plastics that have viable, sustainable alternatives whenever possible.   

PLA

Otherwise known as “compostable plastic” or “bio-based plastic,” PLA (polylactic acid) is a biopolymer made from starchy plants like corn that looks and performs like petroleum-based plastics. But unlike typical plastics, it is compostable in commercial compost facilities. Thanks to its rigidity and versatility, we use PLA for our compostable cutlery and Flex Fit lids for our Eco-Bamboo Bowls in the Two-Piece Collection, and as a lining in our hot cups.

Composting Science

Composting

A foundation of fertilization and food production, composting is the process of breaking down organic material – such as food scraps, leaves and compostable products – into “compost,” a nutrient-dense fertilizer. The key ingredients for composting are oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and heat. Composting has a variety of benefits, including sequestering carbon dioxide, replacing toxic chemical fertilizers in food production, and diverting up to 30% of the trash we currently send to landfills and incinerators in the United States.

Commercial Composting

These facilities provide the ideal conditions – high heat, air flow, moisture content, and nutrient balance – for composting a wide variety of products quickly and efficiently. Some areas have composting available through their municipality while other areas offer commercial composting subscription plans.

Composting Facility

The physical site where industrial composting occurs. It typically entails a large compost pile that is aerated frequently and is capable of large amounts of moisture and high heat.

Industrial Composting

See “Commercial Composting”

Organic Compounds

Sourced from “living things,” and usually consist of carbon.

Nutrient Cycling

A natural process that returns nutrients back into the soil from which they came. We can help “close the nutrient loop” by composting organic waste rather than sending it to the landfill.

Regenerative Agriculture

Refers to farming and grazing practices that restores soil biodiversity and reverses climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide in replenished soil.

What Our Symbols Mean

ASTM-D6400

A standard specification for testing the rate and safety of a product’s biodegradation set by ASTM International, the American Society for Testing and Materials. Certified products compost satisfactorily in commercial composting environments and leave no adverse effects on the quality of the compost.

ASTM-DC6868

A standard specification for testing compostable plastics (see “Compostable Plastics” below) set by ASTM International, the American Society for Testing and Materials. Certified products incorporate compostable plastics or compostable plastic-lining that compost at a comparable rate and quality in municipal and industrial composting facilities.

BPI-Certified

“BPI” stands for the Biodegradable Products Institute and is the organization behind the ubiquitous Compostable Logo. BPI-certified products that feature the Compostable logo, like Better Earth, undergo rigorous, third-party testing to verify that their products meet ASTM D640 and/or ASTM D6868 standards (refer to “ASTM D6460” and “ASTM D6868” below).

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

At Better Earth, we only use paper for our hot and cold cups that came from forests which were certified to be responsibly managed in compliance with the rigorous environmental and social standards of the Forest Stewardship Council.

OK Compost

Denotes certification by Vinçotte to be compostable in commercial or municipal facilities, in compliance with the European Standard EN 13432.

Environmental Impact

Carbon Dioxide

Otherwise known as CO2, Carbon Dioxide is a common colorless gas that has positive and negative impacts for our planet. It can be produced naturally through respiration and from man-made sources like the burning of fossil fuels. The structure of the Carbon Dioxide molecule causes it to trap heat, which is why it is one of the key drivers of global climate change.

Fossil Fuels

As the name implies, fossil fuels are formed by natural, nonrenewable resources that contain energy from ancient photosynthesis. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years. Fossil fuels serve as the world’s primary energy sources and include petroleum, coal and natural gas. However, fossil fuels raise serious environmental concerns. It is the leading contributor to global climate change, causes devastating permanent damage and health risks to communities and ecosystems, and – with petroleum as the main ingredient in plastics – is a leading contributor of single-use plastic pollution.

Methane

A greenhouse gas produced by microorganisms breaking down certain types of sugars in conditions when oxygen is absent. This happens when organic material breaks down in a landfill rather than an oxygen-rich composting facility. Because of its chemical bond structure, the Methane molecule is 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide, but only lasts in our atmosphere for 10 to 12 years whereas Carbon Dioxide lasts for centuries.

Zero Waste

In simplest form, a concept meaning no waste goes to the landfill. We are experiencing a global zero waste movement, catalyzed by broader education about the state of global plastic pollution and marine debris, and more individuals, organizations and government bodies are exploring how to reduce or eliminate their waste to landfill. This often includes refusing unnecessary items and banning items like single-use plastics that cannot be easily reused or recycled.

Sustainable Business

Carbon Neutrality

This happens when an individual or organization has a net-zero carbon footprint by reducing or offsetting all one’s greenhouse gas emissions. Better Earth aims to be 100% Carbon Neutral by 2021.

Carbon Offsets

Investments to “replace” the necessary greenhouse gas emissions spent to conduct business. Carbon offsets are typically seen in the form of projects like afforestation and water restoration that put back, or “sequester,” the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere that was emitted.

Circular Economy

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it is an economic system where nothing is wasted. When composted, Better Earth compostable products are a strong example of the circular economy in action, as our raw materials are sourced from reimagined agricultural byproducts (like bagasse) and we “close the nutrient loop” through composting, leaving no waste behind.