The USDA BioPreferred® Program is one of the most important economic and environmental initiatives currently supported by the U.S. government. Originally designed by lawmakers and the USDA to increase economic growth by promoting biomass alternatives to traditional petrochemical ingredients, the BioPreferred Program has gone on to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of value within the economy and it has led to the creation of millions of jobs throughout the United States.
The categories covered by the USDA BioPreferred Program are highly varied, and the scope of biobased products can often be surprising for those who are unfamiliar with the program. For consumers looking for products that are based on sustainable biobased ingredients, or for product developers thinking about investing in biobased products, learning about some of the product categories can be helpful.
Both specialized industrial inks and consumer grade inks have been approved for the USDA BioPreferred Program. With the amount of ink and toner that is used every year across the country, it makes sense that people would want to turn to sustainable products that are based on ingredients sourced from renewable sources.
News inks used for large-scale printing of newspapers and magazines should be at least 32% biobased before they can be certified for the USDA BioPreferred Program. Printer toner for home or commercial use is also accepted in the Program, with minimum biobased content requirements ranging from 20% to 34%, depending on the speed of the printer the ink is intended for.
Specialty inks are also included in the product categories. These inks are used for optical disc labeling, invisible printing, erasable printing, and other specialty products. The minimum biobased content for inks in this category is 66%.
Biobased content determination is done through ASTM D6866 testing.
Composite lumber, more commonly known as plastic lumber, is an incredibly versatile product that can be used for light construction. Materials made from composites can be more durable and has stronger resilience to environmental conditions. In many cases, they are also more affordable when compared to products made from 100% lumber stock.
The biobased content in composite panels should be at least 23% for them to be accepted in the BioPreferred Program. Products can be made from new or recycled materials, with specific examples varying between manufacturers. Examples of the ingredients used in plastic lumber are HDPE, wheat straw, recycled wood, and rice husk. Some products have a biobased content of up to 50%, reducing the amount of HDPE used to create affordable and hard-wearing plastic lumber.
Home and industrial cleaners are often perceived, sometimes unfairly, as especially damaging to the environment. While some cleaners do use harsh chemicals that can be dangerous when released back into the ecosystem, there is a new generation of cleaning products that carry the USDA Certified Biobased Label and were created using biobased ingredients that are more sustainable and ultimately better for the environment.
Spot removers used for carpet and upholstery cleaning need to be at least 7% biobased before they can be certified under the BioPreferred Program. Many of the top manufacturers have exceeded the minimum biobased requirements, with some products having over 54% biomass-derived ingredients in the product and packaging.
The USDA BioPreferred Program is growing in presence, and the department can add more categories in the future as the need arise. There are more than 133 unique categories designated by the Program, and they all represent excellent areas for healthy competition and innovation in the use of biomass to create alternative products that are better for the environment.
The simple fact is that consumers today are more likely to choose biobased products when the effectiveness and price are comparable to a non-biobased alternative, thus companies will need to consider USDA BioPreferred Program certification to stay competitive.
Beta Analytic can provide a biobased content testing service in compliance with the ASTM D6866 standard. With test results available within 7 business days or less, testing is both convenient and quick, allowing today’s innovators to quickly bring their certified biobased products to the market. A priority service is available for results required in 4 business days or less. Please contact the lab for price inquiries.
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