According to Jacquie Ottman of J. Ottman Consulting in New York, a steady stream of biobased products—everything from compostable dinnerware and sugarcane soft drink bottles to commercial cleaning chemicals made from agricultural materials—is headed our way in 2012. Some of this is because of the public's greater concerns about global climate change and the excessive use of natural resources.
In addition, a federal BioPreferred program created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is designed to help stimulate green jobs, assist rural economies and help wean the United States off foreign oil. As part of the program, the USDA unveiled a BioPreferred product label last year to help consumers identify products that meet specific criteria as to biobased content.
"Because they have become more cost and performance effective, we have seen a definite growth in biobased [cleaning] products," says Mike Sawchuk, vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions.
According to Sawchuk, a biobased product is one that is composed in whole or in significant part of renewable agricultural materials such as corn, citrus, soy, or specifically cultured bacteria and enzymes used for bio-enzymatic cleaners. However, he adds that just because a cleaning product is biobased does not mean it is green.
"We must avoid any confusion. Many [biobased products] have not been proved green [and do not] meet current [green] certification criteria. It is important that our industry, along with end users, fully understand this."
To select green-certified biobased products, distributors and end users should look to see if the product bears the label or mark of a respected certification organization.
Ottman suggests that more manufacturers, including those in the professional cleaning industry, will be developing biobased products in coming years.
"It's clear, biobased products figure prominently in our future," she says "[and] we predict that all products will ultimately be judged by their impact on [natural resources] and global climate change."