UK advisory on green claims for plastics useful in Canada

The British Plastics Federation has just published a document on the topic of green claims for plastics. Given that plastic materials are among those on which we most frequently observe inappropriate environmental claims, this is a document which, while maybe not perfect, is highly recommended to those responsible for green claims on plastics in Canada.

Among the many valuable pieces of advice in this 15 page document are:

  • Products which are marketed as “biodegradable”, “compostable”, “home compostable” or “recyclable” in accordance with a particular standard shall only be made where conformity to the relevant standard can be demonstrated and certification achieved. A written report should be available. Claims that may mislead consumers such as, ‘compliant with BS EN 13432’ must not be used.
  • Marketing communications and promotional literature should be truthful, accurate and able to be substantiated. Where possible, the use of third party certification to relevant national & international labeling and standards is recommended.
  • Consumers should be able to access information to make informed purchases with ease. Technical data should be accessible and presented in clear language. Claims that rely on confidential information for their verification should be avoided.
  • Making false or inaccurate claims is not only poor business practice but is also illegal and actionable. Such actions are more likely to result in the loss of your reputation and civil or criminal action than they are to produce profitable business.
  • Environmental claims must not imply that they are universally accepted if there is a significant division of informed or scientific opinion.
  • The use of “green” imagery, such as featuring trees, vegetation or the colour green should be used with great care and be consistent with the environmental performance of the product.
  • Claims that a product or package is ‘bio-based’ shall be qualified if the product or package is not made entirely from biomass.
  • Claims that a product is compostable in a municipal composting facility may need to be qualified if such facilities are not available to a reasonable proportion of consumers. General statements such as “compostable where facilities exist” shall be avoided.

The complete document is available at

Wisconsin emissions trading and adaptive management for phosphorous OK’d

The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved an innovative program for phosphate discharges to surface waters in Wisconsin, many of which are unacceptably polluted with phosphorous, a pollutant which can cause blooms of algae, loss of dissolved oxygen, and death of aquatic species.

The Wisconsin program is intended to reduce costs of phosphorous control in the state. Under adaptive management, operators of facilities which discharge phosphorous will be able to partner with other dischargers of phosphorous, for example, farmers, to reduce phosphate discharges by an equivalent amount as would otherwise be required from the primary source. The rules also contemplate emissions trading between watersheds in an effort to reduce overall phosphate discharges to the Great Lakes. Many facilities will be required to optimize their wastewater treatment plant to increase the removal of total phosphorus.

The program considers:

  • Adaptive Management and Water Quality Trading are two compliance options for phosphorus. These options are similar in that they both strive to achieve compliance with phosphorus in the most economically efficient manner possible. This typically includes reducing nonpoint and/or other point source pollution in a watershed. Despite this similarity, there are several differences between Adaptive Management and Water Quality Trading.
  • Potential Pollutants: Trading may be utilized for many pollutants of concerns; Adaptive Management was created solely for phosphorus reduction in Wisconsin..
  • Trading and Adaptive Management have different end goals: Adaptive Management focuses on achieving water quality criterion for phosphorus in the surface water; Trading focuses on attaining compliance with a permit limit.
  • The Scale of Adaptive Management and Trading: Adaptive Management focuses on reduction strategies in a watershed; Trading only allows upstream reductions typically.
  • Calculating Offsets: Trading offsets require trade ratios and margins of safety; Adaptive Management does not.
  • Timing: Trading credits must be generated before use; Adaptive Management focuses on permit cycles.
  • Monitoring: Adaptive Management requires in-stream monitoring and annual reports; Trading does not.
  • Eligibility requirements under Adaptive Management and Trading are different.

Wisconsin has also restricted the sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus and has limited the phosphorus content in automatic dishwater detergents.

The EPA approval, including details of the program is at  A more readable description of the new program, which was just approved by US EPA but which came into effect in December 2010, is available at

US drought threatens security of food supplies

This week the US Department of Agriculture is reporting that 55 percent of US pasture and rangeland is in poor to very poor condition. 1369 counties across 31 states have been declared federal drought disaster areas, making farmers in these areas eligible for emergency loans.  61% of the United States and Puerto Rico is now in moderate drought or worse, 38% is in severe drought or worse, 17% is extreme drought or worse, and 2% percent is in exceptional drought. The forecast for most of the drought-affected area is for drought to continue to develop and intensify.

The result is that available food supplies are likely to decline somewhat, import of food will increase, poor people in developing countries and in Canada will go even more hungry or eat an even less nutritious diet, and food prices, even in Canada where the drought is likely just as serious as in the US, will increase.

It is fair to respond that the weather is outside of direct human control, even if human-induced climate change is a contributor to rising global temperatures and redistribution of rainfall patterns. At the same time, it is important to note that global food stocks cannot take too much of this level of drought without causing major harm to human health and economies.

The next issue of Gallon Environment Letter will be reviewing issues of local food production. To subscribe send an email with subscribe in the subject line to  Private individuals will receive the Honoured Reader (no cost edition) automatically and you can upgrade to the subscription edition from there if you wish. Business emails will receive subscription information by email.

US drought information is available at

Worldwatch warns of the growth of garbage

The Worldwatch Institute has published a report as part of its Vital Signs: Global Trends that Shape the Future series entitled Municipal Solid Waste Growing.

The report makes clear that, despite the progress achieved by recycling and waste reduction initiatives, we have not beaten our serious garbage problem.

Highlights from the report:

  • OECD nations generate the greatest quantities of garbage, more than 2 kilograms per person per day. In South Asia, the rate is less than a quarter as much, under half a kilo per person.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling 8 million tons of metals in the United States has eliminated more than 26 million tons of greenhouse gases—the equivalent of removing more than 5 million cars from the road for a year.
  • Each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees and the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline compared with paper made from trees, in addition to requiring only half the water.

A synopsis of the report is at

The full report is available at , free for Worldwatch subscribers and $19.95 for everyone else.

Medal controversy targets Rio Tinto

In 2010 Gallon Environment Letter reported that the medals for the Vancouver Games contained less than 2% of recycled metal rather than the 100% that might be assumed by the reader of a newspaper headline such as “Winter Olympics 2010 Medals Made From Recycled Electronics”. But at least there was more than 1% recycled precious metal from end-of-life electronics in the medals.

This year, union groups including North America’s United Steelworkers are protesting the selection of Rio Tinto as supplier of metals for the London medals. The London Mining Network and other NGOs held a mock ceremony in Trafalgar Square to protest what they claim is the damaging behaviour of Rio Tinto around the world on its workers’ rights, local communities, and the environment. The only recycled metal in the medals appears to be some of the 2.5% zinc used only in the bronze medals.

Rio Tinto has currently locked out about 780 workers in Alma, Quebec, according to union information.

Information on the Games-related protest against Rio Tinto can be found at

Medal composition information is at

Information about the 2010 Vancouver medals is at and scroll down to RECYCLED CLAIM FOR OLYMPIC MEDALS

Complexity of international trade in food raises risk from delay in tracing contamination

A recent peer-reviewed paper from scientists in the US, Romania, Hungary and the UK seeks to describe the international agro-food trade network (IFTN) and shows that its complexity risks making it difficult to trace the source in case of an outbreak of large scale food poisoning caused by a contaminated food ingredient.

The paper demonstrates that “The latest deadly food poisoning outbreaks in 2011 (Escherichia coli in Germany, for which it took three weeks to trace the source, and Listeria monocytogenes from cantaloupes in the US) and their economic, political and social effects clearly illustrated the importance of prompt tracing of the origin of specific food ingredients. This task is placing a huge pressure on regulation and surveillance.”

From data provided by the UN, the authors have developed a model illustrating the international agro-food trade network. According to the model, the top three country pairs in terms of risk of large scale contamination are:

  • food in Germany that is imported from the Netherlands
  • food in Japan that is imported from the USA
  • food in the USA that is imported from Canada

These are theoretical risks based on food trading between countries and do not represent measured food safety performance. The point is that better monitoring, understanding, and control of food trade flows would:

  • contribute to protection against outbreaks and intentional attacks;
  • help devise better traceability methods and thus increase consumer confidence;
  • allow for a better distribution of food and thus reduction of wastage, estimated to be about 30 – 40% globally;
  • increase the reliability and stability of supply systems; and
  • help decrease the environmental burden of food production and distribution logistics.

The authors state that “Such an interdisciplinary approach is entirely within the means of the state-of-the art of science and technology, if supported by detailed and systematic data collection. The role of state and interstate organizations (e.g. EU, UN) is essential in this. Although much of the food commerce and trade happens through the private sector, information collection and sharing should be incentivized to generate the data needed for an in-depth knowledge of the structure and dynamics of the IFTN, to ensure the safety and security of the global food system.”

Ercsey-Ravasz M, Toroczkai Z, Lakner Z, Baranyi J (2012) Complexity of the International Agro-Food Trade Network and Its Impact on Food Safety. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37810. The article can be found at

US business group to advocate for policies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

At Rio+20 last month the (US) Business Council for Sustainable Energy committed itself to advocate for policies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus joining a small but growing group of US businesses that are urging governments to take action on climate change.

The BCSE was established in 1992. Current membership consists of about 50 companies and associations. Among the better known members are Walmart Stores, Inc., PG&E Corporation, Knauf Insulation, Johnson Controls, Inc, Intel Corporation, and Ingersoll Rand.

The US BCSE is one of four founding members of the International Council for Sustainable Energy, with others coming from Europe, the UK, and Australia. There is no business council for sustainable energy in Canada.

Details of the BCSE’s Rio+20 commitment can be found at

The BCSE website is at

Phthalates from personal care products linked to diabetes

A study of 2,350 women published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that women with highest levels of phthalates in their urine, and hence in their body, are more than twice as likely to suffer from diabetes than women with the lowest levels of phthalates.

The article concludes:

Urinary levels of several phthalates were associated with prevalent diabetes. Future prospective studies are needed to further explore these associations to determine whether phthalate exposure can alter glucose metabolism, and increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.

It is important to note that this issue may not be gender-specific. Previous studies have shown that women typically have higher urinary concentrations of several phthalate metabolites compared to men, possibly due to higher use of personal care products.

Given that most people would prefer to avoid diabetes, it is not unreasonable to suspect that this study may eventually lead to demand for phthalate-free food packaging, cosmetics, perfumes, nail polishes, flooring, and other industrial products.

The study is available at of Print (AOP)

A possible newly discovered threat to honey bees

Research published in 2010 found high levels of miticides and agrochemicals in North American bee colonies. Research just published has found that organosilicone surfactants, used as adjuvants in agricultural pesticides, cause significant learning impairment when ingested by honey bees. Adjuvants are substances added to a pesticide spray to increase the effectiveness of the pesticide. According to the article, they have, up until now, been regarded as safe and manufacturers often keep their chemical composition secret.

The article recommends that the perceived status of pesticide adjuvants as ‘inert’ materials that can do no harm to biological organisms should be reconsidered. The researchers are undertaking further work to clarify specific ingredients in adjuvants responsible for their behavioral impacts on bees.

Mullin CA, Frazier M, Frazier JL, Ashcraft S, Simonds R, et al. (2010) High levels of miticides and agrochemicals in North American apiaries: Implications for honey bee health. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9754.

Timothy J. Ciarlo*, Christopher A. Mullin, James L. Frazier, Daniel R. Schmehl. (2012) Learning Impairment in Honey Bees Caused by Agricultural Spray Adjuvants. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40848. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040848.

Poll seems to manipulate public opinion

While public opinion pollsters are not always correct in their polling and analyses, one would at least like to think that the numbers they present are obtained without manipulation of the people being polled. Not so, it seems, in the case of one major pollster seeking the public’s opinion on an environmentally controversial technology for treating of food.

A major pollster conducted the survey for the Consumers Association of Canada on the topic of food irradiation. Not surprisingly, the polling firm found that 3 in 5 (57%) of Canadians had never heard of food irradiation. That response not being sufficient, the pollster then went on to tell those being polled that

As you may or may not know, food irradiation has been used in Canada for selected food items including dried herbs, whole or ground spices, onions, wheat, potatoes and flour. Irradiation of salad greens, chicken and hamburger meat has been used in other countries – including the United States and Mexico – to eliminate harmful bacteria such as listeria and e.coli.
Some people feel that consumers should be able to purchase salad greens, chicken or hamburger meat that have been treated with the process of food irradiation if they are concerned about the risk of illness or death due to harmful bacteria.
To what extent do you support or oppose food irradiation as a choice for consumers when purchasing food items such as salad greens, chicken, hamburger or deli meats?

Following that description, and another equally vague and one-sided:

As you may or may not know, a process called food irradiation is used in some countries in an effort to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria in food.
Food irradiation is defined as: “…a method of preserving food by using a type of radiation energy. It is one of several techniques that can be used by food producers to protect the quality of food before it reaches the grocery store.”

which GallonDaily would describe as a wholly inadequate and significantly biased description of the risks and consequences of food irradiation, the pollster then went on to report that two out of three (66%) Canadians support having irradiated food at the grocery store  as a choice.

GallonDaily cannot see how this survey can be anything other than a deliberate attempt to manipulate public opinion in order to obtain a desired outcome. Whether the manipulation emanated from the pollster, the client of the pollster, or some third party, is unknown at this time. It certainly highlights the dangers of holding public referenda on topics about which the public has little or no knowledge.

The poll results can be found at