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Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume V, Issue 42, October 26, 2015 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "Terú")  

Teru's Trash Talk

Green-washing is an interesting and rather recent term that is used to describe some sales pitch where a cloak of environmental goodliness is thrown over a less-than "green" practice. People vote with their pocket-books, and marketers just know that given two very similar choices, there will statistically be more folks that will spend their vote on an item that at least appears less damaging to this poor old planet than its competitor. Green-washing sells.

There are more than a few of these dubious marketing claims that have become deeply imbedded in the Waste Management & Resource Recovery lexicon. I'm not disparaging healthy competition or even catchy marketing hooks, but c'mon people: "whatever the market will bear" sometimes gets way out of hand.

Let's just pick on one of these over-used green-washing sale hooks right now. The Market has been bearing up under an onslaught of things labeled "biodegradable". Logically, this would mean that whatever that thing is, left to the vagaries of the environment, it would return to nothing but natural elements within some reasonable amount of time. Not just break up into smaller and smaller pieces, but "return to natural elements". Not just degrade in a gazillion years long after all of us aren't around anymore, but you know, within say 2 to five years.

There's an Agency for Everything and often agency zeal results in our humble opinion in serious control over-kill. But which agency watches this green-washing game? Well, that would be the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because, yes, these subtly nefarious schemes compromise international fair trade. The FTC is not prone to snap decisions, and their cautious approach to governance can be both a good and a bad thing: we can live with some pretty nasty stuff on the global market until they figure out a way to stop the practice. But this month the righteous FTC hammer came down hard on marketing under the "biodegradable" green banner.

This is Big Money International Commerce we're talking about. After literally years of scrutiny and assuredly many millions of tax-payer dollars, the FTC has issued a Final Order barring a company from selling the gullible public (snicker, snicker) "100% Biodegradable Plastic". Don't get us wrong: Plastic is Good. But for us to manage plastic right, we need to know what it will and will not do. In this case, it's the deceptive and misleading practice that was found to be Bad Marketing. The austere agency told ‘em to put up the scientific proof, or shut up. In essence the FTC ruled that you can't just add Special Sauce to plastic so it makes big pieces of plastic break down into little pieces of plastic, and market the resulting commodities as "completely biodegradable". Good try; bad move.

Hey Rube!

So it's like the old saw about Questioning Authority. Remember, if we all vote with our pocketbook, Authority becomes whoever has the best sales pitch. Go ahead: question every purpose of these carefully planted New and Improved terms we find in use. Watch for use of the word Organic, for instance, and ask yourself if you know, really, what that means. How about Clean Energy …so Clean, Compared to What? Clean, according to whom? Not that we can demand full proof on every scrap, since after all, we are also prone to Paralysis by Analysis. But just exactly what is required to provide "competent and reliable scientific evidence"? Maybe we just have an exceptionally high need to know … you decide. 

This Week's Extra Reading

California Journal Focuses on Woody Biomass Utilization and Forest Mgt

The July-September 2015 Special Issue of California Agriculture entitled " Woody Biomass: Energy, ecosystems, economics" focuses on the nexus of forest management, climate change, and renewable energy through the lens of forest biomass utilization in California. 10/22/2015

This Week's Top Story

International Team Converts Woody Biomass to EPA Registered Gasoline

An international consortium of five companies and organizations came together in a joint effort to transform woody biomass, including trees and wood waste, into a gasoline product suitable for use in today’s automobiles. 10/23/2015

The Week's News

FTC Issues Ruling to Require Scientific Proof of Biodegradable Claims

Earlier this month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled (Docket No. 9358) that Ohio based EMC BioFilms Inc (dba Enviroplastics International) had not proven that its plastic additives ensured environmental biodegradability, and barred their use of the claims on their products. 10/23/2015

FEAD Petitions EU Commission for Demand-Side Circular Economy Targets

The European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) has called upon the Commissioners and the Secretariat General of the European Commission (EC) to include resource recovery targets at European Union (EU) level and demand-side "pull" measures as key elements of the upcoming Circular Economy Package. 10/22/2015

UPM Initiates Field Tests of Wood Based Diesel Fuel In Helsinki Region Buses

Finland based UPM Corporation has announced that it will be starting field tests of its wood-based diesel fuel in urban buses together with Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) and the VTT Technical Research Centre. 10/22/2015

ElectraTherm Enters Biogas Market in Romania with Sale of Power+ Generator

Nevada based ElectraTherm has shipped a Power+ Generator to a biogas plant in Sacueni, Romania, the first installation of the 4200 (ElectraTherm’s 35kW unit), and the first biogas application in Romania. 10/21/2015

WELTEC Group Acquires Two Biomethane Refineries in Germany

The WELTEC Group has acquired two biomethane refineries in Hesse and Saxony-Anhalt (Germany). 10/20/2015

DuPont Supplies Enzymes to QCCP for Cellulosic Biofuel from Corn Fiber

DuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) and Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) have announced a new multi-year contract to supply the enzymes that enable QCCP’s Cellerate™ process in the production of cellulosic biofuel from corn kernel fiber. 10/19/2015

The Week's Action Items

Due 11/13/2015: Proposals for Commercial Waste Characterization Services

The City of San José, California, Environmental Services Department is seeking proposals from consulting firms (Consultant) interested in providing commercial waste material characterization services for solid waste and recycling programs on an as-needed basis for various projects. 10/20/2015

Due 11/23/2015: Comments to Oregon DEQ on Draft Solid Waste Regs, Fees

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is proposing to revise rules governing solid waste permitting, grants, and tipping fees to implement recently adopted Senate Bill 245, and to support implementation of the state's program, "Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action". 10/19/2015

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Featured Events:

2015 California Bioresources Alliance Symposium, November 4-5, 2015, Rancho Cordova, California
2015 California Bioresources Alliance Symposium
Nov 4-5, 2015
Rancho Cordova

 2015 SCWMF Waste Management Conference, November 18, 2015, Pomona, California

Recommended Reading:

Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis  
Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis


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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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