What's the difference between degradable, photo-degradable, biodegradable, recycled, recyclable, re-usable bags?
Degradable is the most general term. This indicates the ability to be broken down by either biological or chemical means.
Bio-degradable/Compostable: Bio-degradable or compostable products are capable of being broken down by the action of living things (typically microorganisms) under very specific temperature and other conditions. They are typically manufactured from corn-based materials, like Polylactic acid (PLA). Bio-degradable bags must be kept dry, isolated from organic matter, and stored under controlled environmental conditions to ensure that they do not begin to decompose prior to use. Due to their organic components, they generate substantial amounts of carbon dioxide as they decompose, equivalent to 90+% of their carbon content. Due to their organic component, they cannot be recycled with plastic bags without compromising the recycled compound.
Photo-degradable: Photo-degradable products are broken down through a chemical reaction from exposure to sunlight. There is no biological interaction. This process is the most carbon-neutral degradation process.
GXT Green ECOgrade bags photodegrade within 240 days to a non-toxic residue which can then biodegrade, compared to regular plastic bags, which take up to 400 years to degrade. ECOgrade bags can be recycled with plastic bags as they do not compromise the recycle stream.
Recycled: Recycled bags and products are manufactured from previously used plastics or other materials. While the reuse is an important way to preserve resources, there is a tremendous amount of energy and carbon released in the process of cleaning, breaking down, and remanufacturing the materials.
Recyclable: Recyclable bags are bags that can be remanufactured and turned into other products. Currently, less than 5% of recyclable bags are remanufactured. The recycling process is very energy intensive.
Re-usable: Re-usable products, especially bags, can be re-used multiple times. Re-usable bags require people to remember to carry them to the store, and create sanitary issues from reuse. Reusable bags can be manufactured from many materials, from plastic to cotton, to non-woven materials, or even ECOgrade materials. Other than ECOgrade reusable bags, since these bags tend to be bulkier than typical shopping bags, they require extra energy and carbon to manufacture, and they do not decompose easily when disposed. Studies show that in reality, most reusable bags are used less than five times and require over 200 times of usage to be less injurious to the environment than plastic bags.