A path to increasing biobased product adoption
More and more people are interested in what’s in the soap they use to wash their hands, the solvents and degreasers they use on parts and machinery, or the products they use to clean their floors. It has become clear overtime that this isn’t a passing fad—more people every day are interested in learning about the ingredients that make up the products they used to take for granted.
Meeting the growing demand for sustainable and safe products may feel daunting for some, as there still remains the need to meet the already established standards within companies, which may make these new standards of sustainability feel like extra. Yet, many of the standards that have been long established within the industry have been so established by organizations like the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which may lead consumers to look for a solution to these new standards from these same pre-established organizations. Fortunately, such a solution does exist in the USDA’s BioPreferred Program®, which exists to support the purchase and use of biobased products.
Biobased products are derived from plants and other agricultural, marine, and forestry materials. Biobased products include a diverse range of offerings from cleaning, janitorial and constructions products, to personal care and packaging products used by consumers every day. Examples of agricultural feedstocks/ingredients used to create biobased products include soybeans, corn, palm, and coconut.
Biobased products represent incredible technological advances and innovations. Top manufacturers, including Clorox, Reckitt Benckiser and Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), have been working diligently for years on cleaning and janitorial products that incorporate biobased ingredients that meet and exceed the performance characteristics of cleaning products with traditional petroleum ingredients. Such biobased products can:
- Be less expensive than and outperform petroleum-based counterparts. For example, the United States Postal Service’s recent switch to a biobased (soy-based) mastic remover eliminated the need for respirators and resulted in a nearly 300% cost savings when compared to non-biobased alternatives.
- Be safer for humans and the environment than their petroleum-based counterparts.
- Offer renewable alternatives to, and reduce reliance on, petroleum-based products.
The BioPreferred Program
The BioPreferred Program was created by federal government legislation and reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, which shapes federal food and agricultural policy. The goal of the program is to identify new markets for farmers and their feedstocks. The program does this by getting feedstock associations and manufacturers to work together to find new solutions for old petroleum-based products.
Today, the BioPreferred Program has identified 15,000 biobased products and certified approximately 3,500 as meeting the minimum levels of biobased content that would make them eligible to display the USDA certified biobased product label.
Today, the BioPreferred Program has identified 15,000 biobased products and certified approximately 3,500 as meeting the minimum levels of biobased content that would make them eligible to display the USDA certified biobased product label. The program also provides commercial and industrial buyers of cleaning and janitorial products with a reliable, verifiable catalog of biobased products to choose from.
The Certification Process
A cleaning or hygiene product manufacturer that meets the USDA’s criteria may apply for certification, allowing them to display the USDA certified biobased product label on their product. In order to start this process, manufacturers submit samples of their products to the BioPreferred Program. A third-party laboratory then tests the product to determine the biobased content of the product.
This test measures ‘new’ organic carbon versus total organic carbon in the product. The ratio that is found in the results is the product’s biobased content and will be printed on the label. This label assures consumers that the product contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients. Consumers can trust the label to mean what it says because manufacturers’ claims concerning the biobased content are third-party certified and strictly monitored by the USDA.
Getting Started with Biobased Products
The USDA BioPreferred Program maintains and updates a product catalog to help buyers of cleaning and janitorial products identify biobased products. Anyone may access the catalog with options to search by categories like custodial services or cleaning supplies, or search by a product or even a company name. This catalog is easy to query, so consumers will be able to easily find biobased options to products they are using now.
In the near future, the number of biobased cleaning and janitorial products available to choose from is going to increase. Consumers are demanding them, and manufacturers are obliging with truly innovative products. The USDA BioPreferred Program is staying on top of that trend and supporting its development to its fullest capacity.
By Kate Lewis, Program Analyst, USDA BioPreferred Program