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Sustainability & The USDA's BioPreferred Program

Posted on 4/20/2012 8:19:04 AM By Jeff Timm
  

My last blog touched on a definition of sustainability commonly used by the packaging industry.  By nature of its functionality packaging is at the forefront of the sustainability discussion in this country as industry after industry and company after company grapples with a sustainability definition and tries to understand what they need to do and how this mega trend will affect their respective market segment.  This discussion is also occurring within the confines of adhesive companies as part of the ASC efforts on sustainability definitions for the industry and also to establish a better understanding of how sustainability fits into the adhesive industry.

Questions that are bound to arise if not already done so is:  Is all the effort worth it financially? How does it affect the bottom line?

Here is a real opportunity to obtain sales based on sustainable products. President Obama recently signed a presidential memorandum, http://tiny.cc/91p2aw that requires the Federal government via the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) BioPreferred Program http://www.biopreferred.gov  to track and increase its purchases of products made from renewable agricultural materials.

The memorandum directs Federal agencies to take decisive steps to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years. This memorandum is expected to result in a 50% increase in the number of new products that are designated as biobased within a year.

The USDA's BioPreferred program, which started in 1998, has two major initiatives: (1) voluntary Identify and certify through a new labeling system qualifying biobased products for consumer marketing and, (2) designate categories of biobased products that are afforded preference by Federal agencies, the U. S. Department of Defense and their contractors when making purchase decisions.

USDA Biopreferred Program

Since launching the labeling initiative, the program has received more than 1,000 applications, and certified more than 500 products. About 10% certified consisted of biobased packaging.

The BioPreferred program currently has about 9,000 individual products listed in its database under 64 categories that the USDA designated for preferred Federal procurement.  Federal agencies and the US Department of Defense actually spend about $500bn annually.  The BioPreferred Program has identified about 25,000 biobased products that are being manufactured at this time and that 10,000 are listed in their database. About 3,100 manufacturers are also listed in these 64 categories of biobased products.

Only by choosing biobased products labeled “USDA Certified Biobased Products” can the consumer be assured that the USDA and the Federal government stand behind the accuracy of the claim that the product contains biological ingredients in the amounts stated on the label. Manufacturers and vendors who have obtained the rights to use the BioPreferred® label on a product have submitted to USDA test evidence of the biobased content of the product or package. Authorized independent laboratories determine the level of biobased content based on ASTM testing protocol.

USDA has established minimum biobased content standards for many product categories. A product must meet or exceed the minimum biobased content percentage in its given category in order to use the Certified Biobased Product label. Product categories for which biobased content standards have not been established must contain 25% biobased content.

Certified Biobased Label Fact Sheet

The BioPreferred Program website explains the labeling rationale. 

Only by choosing biobased products labeled “USDA Certified Biobased Products” can the consumer be assured that the USDA and the Federal government stand behind the accuracy of the claim that the product contains biological ingredients in the amounts stated on the label. Manufacturers and vendors who have obtained the rights to use the BioPreferred® label on a product have submitted to USDA test evidence of the biobased content of the product or package.

USDA has established minimum biobased content standards for many product categories. A product must meet or exceed the minimum biobased content percentage in its given category in order to use the Certified Biobased Product label. Product categories for which biobased content standards have not been established must contain 25% biobased content.

The ramifications of this program for all stake holders-adhesive manufacturers, packaging companies, brand owners and consumers are enormous.  The BioPreferred process provides a meaningful reliable process for product biobased certification.  Many in the packaging or adhesive industry may say why bother, adhesives are such a small part of a finished package or part.  The BioPreferred program also accounts for ‘complex assemblies’1 where adhesives are only one of multiple components of a finished item.  Think of the power of your product offering if you can certify to your customer that your product has a certain level of biobased components as they employ it in their ‘complex assembly’1 product for sale to the government or directly in the commercial marketplace.

The BioPreferred Program deserves your attention.  Research conducted last year by Genencor, now part of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, found that eight in 10 American consumers would definitely or likely purchase biobased household products if comparable on cost and effectiveness. In a survey of 800 of its business customers in 2011, DuPont found that nearly 90% said delivering products with environmental benefits is a long-term market opportunity, http://www2.dupont.com/Media_Center/en_US/daily_news/march/article20120313.html.

The end results are sure to bring rewards that will more than offset the minimum cost to certify.  All the rationale for BioPreferred product certification and use of the USDA Certified Biobased Products label can be found on the Website:  http://www.biopreferred.gov

Has anyone out there used the BioPreferred Program to their advantage?  We would like to hear about your experience.

1Complex Assembly-A system of distinct materials and components assembled to create a finished product with specific functional intent, where some or all of the system inputs contain some amount of biobased material or feedstock.



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