Why is ECOgrade a Better Solution

There is much debate regarding the negative impact of plastic bags on our environment. Over the past few years, there have been progressive attempts to solve this problem. GXT Green ECOgrade Commonwealth and other GXT Green degradable bags are a unique solution. They are manufactured with mineral and organic compounds, have a low carbon footprint, can be recycled and are cost competitive. They degrade in nature under various conditions, depending on the desired specifications:

  • All ECOgrade bags Photodegrade in nature
  • Lexington bags add cost-effective bio-degradability
  • Concord bags add anaerobic degradability. If they are buried in a landfill or elsewhere before fully degrading from sunlight they will continue to degrade
  • Newton bags offer photo, bio, and anaerobic degradability in one fomulation

In addition, GXT Green offers:

  • Walden: A renewable materials product
  • Amherst: A reusable mineral-based bag

Mineral/organic-based ECOgrade bags have been in development for over 10 years. During that time, several other approaches have been tried in the market to solve the plastic bag pollution problem. All of these previous solutions, however, have their shortfalls. Here is some history of other technologies and solutions along the path to this new breakthrough:

Paper bags

Paper bags were the first grocery bags, and enjoyed many years of prominence. Many people still believe that paper bags are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. This is not necessarily true. The fact is that the carbon footprint of paper is extremely high. Paper manufacturing leads to deforestation, water pollution, and requires large amounts of energy. In addition, paper bags are heavy, cost more and use more energy to transport and store. Upon disposal, paper takes up a tremendous volume in landfill, and take many years to degrade. Functionally, paper bags are not very strong and often tear. They are also expensive, which encouraged retailers to switch to plastic bags.

Conventional plastic bags (Hydrocarbon-based)

Conventional plastic bags, whether they are thin or thicker with an eye toward re-use, have a significant carbon footprint, although lower than paper. In regard to recycling, according to the American Chemistry Council, it takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it does to recycle a pound of paper. However, plastics have created a huge pollution problem due to careless littering, blocking drains and causing the death of animals and fish that ingest them. Over 4 billion bags are littered every year. If you tied these bags end-to-end, you would be able to encircle the earth 63 times! Furthermore, they do not degrade and persist in the environment and landfills for hundreds of years. If incinerated, they result in a viscous residue. Consumers generally do not have a positive view of plastic bags.

Earlier variations of bio-degradable/compostable bags

Bio-degradable bags were one of the first degradable or compostable alternatives to plastic and paper. Most types of bio-degradables are manufactured using starch or other organic materials. Using purely bio-degradable or compostable bags mitigates the reliance on petroleum. However, bio-degradables still do not solve the litter problem, as most bio-degradable processes must be initiated in commercial facilities with specific conditions. In addition, there are performance issues with most bio-degradables. They must be stored away from heat and water, or they may become unusable, and they tend to become brittle. Finally, traditional bio-degradables are more expensive compared to conventional plastics.

Previous generations of oxo-biodegradable and photo-degradable plastic bags

Photo-degradable bags degrade by extended exposure to sunlight. Older generations, called Oxo-biodegradable bags are made by blending 1%-2% of an additive (referred to as a Masterbatch) with conventional plastic during the extrusion process. Oxo-biodegradable plastics, when discarded and exposed to sunlight, undergo a breakdown of their long chain polymer structure (oxidative degradation) to smaller-size polyethylene particles, rather than undergo complete degradation by chain scission. This process leaves micro-plastic residue which may be toxic to the food chain, as small organisms may ingest them and subsequently starve. In addition, the masterbatch formulas are generally manufactured using heavy metal salts, such as cobalt as one of the ingredients. The heavy metal salt makes them unacceptable as they leave a potentially toxic residue when they degrade. These previous types of oxo or photo degradable bags are more expensive than traditional plastic bags.

ECOgrade degradable bags

ECOgrade is a technological innovation breakthrough that addresses the shortcomings of the previous generations of products and bags. ECOgrade is not a masterbatch additive, but rather is a complex structured material, which degrades at a molecular level. Thus, unlike earlier products, there are no splintering of microplastics or heavy metal salt residues left behind when they degrade. The ECOgrade Commonwealth bag is recyclable, and the mineral residue is safe and benign in the environment. In fact, if incinerated, the residual ash, has been shown to be a soil nutrient by independent laboratory tests.
If littered or lost, ECOgrade bags will photodegrade, bio-degrade, compost or anaerobically degrade per relevant ASTM standards. The complete line of ECOgrade products includes photodegradable, as well as bio-degradable/compostable and anaerobic degradable features to meet customer and local environmental requirements. Finally, ECOgrade bags offer a cost advantage, as they are priced competitively against standard plastic bags. With all these advantages, ECOgrade is the bag solution for the present…and the future.