With an ever-growing number of companies, and consumers asking for “green” products, it is imperative that consumers educate themselves about what it means to be “green.” It is much easier to say than to do. Other common words often used include “sustainable, bio-based, biodegradable, compostable, eco-friendly, plant-based, oxo-degradable, and renewable.” This plethora of words can at the time be confusing and hard to understand for the average consumers.
Learn more about these terms here Glossary

Additional terms such as “CO2 neutral, or carbon neutral” are also used. The renewable bio-based products sector has the potential to replace an estimated 90% of their fossil-based counterparts in the coming years. As such, there will be companies who will take advantage of this and state that their products are green, eco-friendly yet can offer “no proof” that their materials have been “Independently tested” or verified to be bio-based, or biodegradable. Often bioplastics carry a price premium, for their additional benefits they bring over traditional oil-based plastics.

Blue jean insulation- is it “green”?

Some traditional uses for recycled blue jean material range from raw sheets for home/building insulation, to encasing the layers in a film to be used as a flexible cooler. The sourcing of cotton is actually a very non-eco-friendly process by requiring the consumption of massive amounts of water and insecticides. Blue jean uses indigo dye or “mordant” surface treatment to color the raw cotton. The dye does not penetrate the fibers directly, but binds externally to the threads using a chemical agent called a mordant. Mordants are made from heavy metals like chromium or aluminum, both of which kill plants and can destroy ecosystems.

When used in any cold chain shipping application, the recycled blue jean material is utilized as insulation with an outer polyethylene/metallized film to repel moisture during transit. This alone means these particular products are not “eco-friendly” or “green” and still pose the same recycling difficulties as any another plastic. If these materials are separated you can then recycle the blue jean (cotton) material to be reused as insulation. Blue jean insulation is in some cases being marketed as biodegradable. Although 100% cotton can degrade over time naturally, the toxic dyes used in denim material could contaminate the soil or compost during biodegradation.

Negative aspects

  • Insulative values are not competitive with the more eco-friendly alternatives like starch
  • Flimsy panels can make a packout more difficult
  • Materials must be separated for individual disposal
  • Toxic dyes can contaminate soil if used in any compost pile