USDA Announces Green Labeling Program

January 28, 2011

2 Min Read
USDA Announces Green Labeling Program

In February the federalgovernment is launching voluntary labeling standards for products that containrenewable resources, such as plastics made from corn.

A product may be labeled"USDA-certified biobased," if it contains at least 25 percent materialderived from renewable feedstocks. The label does not apply to products developedbefore 1972, such as paper plates that are derived from wood products.

Initial plans to require thatat least half of the product contain renewable materials were opposed bymanufacturers concerned about the costs of renewable feedstocks and potentialprocessing limitations.

The action by the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) is important for design engineers, who nowhave at least some guideline to determine the validity of a producer'senvironmental claims. The program, however, does not provide information aboutthe life-cycle impact of biobased products.

Major producers of renewablematerials lobbied for the higher level, which would have boosted their sales.DuPont, which has developedpolymers made with corn and other renewables, took a different tack.

"The release of the biopreferredlabeling standards will help consumers identify products with biobasedcontent," said Craig Binetti, president of DuPont Applied BioSciences. "Thiswill go a long way to making what used to be alternative products into easilyrecognized, mainstream items."

DuPont products in this areainclude Sorona engineering plastics, which are based in part on corn-basedfeedstocks.

In announcing the standard,Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said, "This label will makethose decisions easier by identifying products as biobased. These products haveenormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value toagricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts and reduce ourdependence on imported oil."

The BioPreferred announcement also includesa biobased product procurement preference program for federal agencies. The USDAhas designated approximately 5,100 biobased products for preferred purchasingby federal agencies.

USDA estimates that there are20,000 biobased products currently being manufactured in the United Statesand that the growing industry as a whole is responsible for over 100,000 jobs.

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