Part three of this three-part article takes a closer look at biodegradation claims for floor pads.

The term biodegradable is fraught with ambiguity when talking about floor pads. Some believe that natural-fiber pads biodegrade quicker than synthetic pads. Others believe that no floor pad can be verified as truly biodegradable, because no one can witness the process taking place in the landfill.

Americo recently launched a floor pad technology called Full Cycle that shows up to 90 percent degradation in 14 months once discarded into a landfill, according to ASTM D5511, a standard test method to determine the degree and rate of biodegradation of plastic materials in an oxygen-free environment. The company is converting its standard floor pad line into Full Cycle pads for stripping, scrubbing, buffing, polishing and burnishing, says Shutzberg.

“Full Cycle floor pads are specially formulated to rapidly biodegrade, once discarded into an active landfill,” he says. “This significantly shorter time frame allows participating landfills to capture landfill emissions, as opposed to allowing the methane to emit to the atmosphere, and makes way for it to be converted to fuel for vehicles and to fuel power plants, homes and manufacturing facilities.”

In certain parts of the country, however, regulations make biodegredation claims more difficult, if not impossible. For instance, the state of California does not recognize biodegredation claims on plastics — a limitation that has affected the decisions of some manufacturers.

“We haven’t pursued a biodegradable claim,” says 3M’s Amos. “When products end up in the landfill, and there’s no air or water getting to them, it’s difficult for those products to biodegrade. We feel there are other ways to pursue environmental sustainability: What are the fibers made from? Can they eliminate the need for chemicals?”

Regardless of what type of green floor pad a company sells, manufacturers urge end users to look for third-party testing to substantiate all product claims.

According to manufacturers, a growing number of jan/san and foodservice distributors are stocking green floor pads in response to end user demand.

“More and more end users are looking for green products in their facilities,” says Beaudette. “Buildings seeking LEED certification are definitely interested in these products, as are K-12 schools and higher education. And let’s not forget healthcare; this is a very important market segment that understands the value of green floor pads.”

Government facilities are also driving the trend, adds Mazzoli.

“There’s a White House executive order stating that government agencies need to use as many sustainable products as possible to promote healthy living and a healthy environment,” he says. “So the government is driving this in a big way.”

Fortunately customers that choose green floor pads are not sacrificing functionality or affordability to meet their sustainability initiatives. Not only do these pads perform as well as traditional pads, according to manufacturers, but there is no significant difference in price or design.

“The look and feel of our recycled content floor pads is very similar to the virgin product,” says Amos. “So facilities should not notice a difference in performance.” 

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.