What We Do

spacer spacer spacer

The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC) advances the introduction and use of biobased products that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. We do this by creating robust sustainability criteria, encouraging  markets for these products, and promoting policy initiatives.

The SBC is unique in bringing together diverse issues, perspectives, and experts to address the full lifecycle of biomaterials. This lifecycle perspective includes:

  • sustainable agriculture and rural development in the growing of crops
  • clean production and green chemistry in the manufacture and use of biomaterials
  • recycling, composting, and zero waste at the end of product life

Current Activities to Promote Sustainable Biobased Materials

Creating and Promoting Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Specifications for Compostable Biobased Food Service Ware

Based on our Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastic Products, we have developed purchasing specifications, that give purchasers a roadmap for selecting environmentally preferable food service ware. We chose food service ware for the first purchasing specifications because the products are in widespread use, there is a competitive market, and large institutional purchasers are significant players. This means that there is a significant opportunity for leverage — only a few large institutions can influence the market by changing their purchasing specifications.

We have worked with our Technical Advisory Committee as well as industry leaders such as Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farm to develop and validate the specifications. The Green Purchasing Institute has developed a detailed bid document and the Sustainable Research Group has developed detailed verification criteria.

We are also setting up a conformance process that enable manufacturers to list products that meet the bronze, silver, and gold level criteria as detailed in the purchasing specifications. This is essential for purchasers to easily identify industry-leading products. Using a similar framework, we will develop purchasing specifications for other categories of biobased products.

Supporting the Transition to Sustainable Biomass Feedstocks by Expanding the Working Landscapes Certificates Program

An important goal is to create demand for biobased feedstocks that are grown and harvested sustainably. Unfortunately, resin producers cannot justify devoting entire production lines to such feedstocks because there is not enough current demand. To catalyze demand, we are promoting Working Landscape Certificates (WLCs) for buyers of bioplastic resins. Under this program, buyers continue to purchase resin from traditional feedstocks and also purchase WLCs. These are a pound-for-pound offset program that  pays corn growers who agree to raise their crops using prescribed sustainability practices. For corn, this means not using GMO seed, eliminating use of carcinogenic chemicals, and employing practices that promote environmental quality. The program is currently focused on corn-based plastics, but could expand to other biobased feedstocks. The SBC works closely with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Green Harvest Technologies to promote and expand this innovative market-based approach.

The program is now poised for major expansion. In October 2010, Stonyfield Farms, Inc., the world’s leading organic yogurt company, announced its purchase of WLCs as an integral element of its new policy of using  corn-based plastic for multipack yogurt containers. Stonyfield Farms is the first major buyer of WLCs, bringing 490 additional acres of sustainable farming practices for corn production. This purchase is spawning new interest from other businesses and farmers.

Raising Awareness and Providing Policy Expertise on Sustainable Practices

We offer webinars on cutting-edge issues, speakers with expertise on technical and policy issues, and technical guidance. We have engaged with key stakeholders such as the Biodegradable Products Institute, European Bioplastics (an industry association), Vincotte (a Belgium bioproducts standards organization), NatureWorks (the largest bioresin manufacturer), many leading green businesses such as Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farms, Inc., government purchasers such as the City of San Francisco and Fort Bragg (NC), and federal agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture.

What are sustainable biomaterials?

We define a "biomaterial" as any material made from annually renewable plant matter (as opposed to fossil fuels made from non-renewable prehistoric plant material), including agricultural crops and residues, and trees.

  • Sourced from sustainably grown and harvested cropland or forests.
  • Manufactured without hazardous inputs and impacts.
  • Healthy and safe for the environment during use.
  • Designed to be reused, recycled, or composted at the end of their intended use.