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Terminology Related to Eco-Friendly Plastic Bags

The definitions of the following terms only include information related to the packaging industry; the terms may have other definitions as well.

ASTM 6400 – a compostability standard that defines a plastic as compostable if it undergoes a 60% biodegradation within 180 days under commercial composting conditions

Biodegradable – capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other biological means

Compostable – capable of being used as compost

Ethylene - a colorless, flammable gas usually obtained from petroleum and natural gas and used in the synthesis of polyethylene

Extrude – to form plastic with a desired cross-section by forcing it through a die

Extruder - a machine that transforms resin into film and another name for a manufacturer of film

Film - a thin sheet of plastic that can be converted into plastic bags or tubing

Length-the side of the bag or tubing that is sealed (i.e. does not open) or the longest of the two dimensions of a sheet or sheeting

mil - .001 inches (i.e. a thousandth of an inch); not a millimeter. For example, a Ziploc® sandwich bag is 1.5 mil and a freezer bag is 2.7 mil

Poly Bag - a plastic bag made of polyethylene

Polyethylene – a plastic polymer of ethylene used for packaging

Polymer – a large molecule composed of repeating structural units

Postal-Approved – formulated to comply with the USPS T-3204 protocol for use on automation rate flat-size mail pieces. Performance standards met include haze, blocking, coefficient of friction and static charge decay

Post-Consumer Recycled Poly (PCR) - recycled from household waste (ex. checkout bags taken returned to the supermarket and placed in the recycling bin)

Post-Industrial Recycled Poly (PIR)- recycled from manufacturing waste (ex. scraps left over after trimming bags down to size)

Process Printing - high end screened prints and “photographic type” images

Recyclable – able to be recycled

Recycle – to treat or process used or waste materials so as to make suitable for reuse

Resin - small beads of raw plastic used to produce plastic film

Spot Printing - a printing plate per color is used to apply ink one color at a time

Virgin Poly - polyethylene that has no additives and has not been recycled

Width - the side of the bag or tubing that opens or the shortest of the two dimensions of a sheet or sheeting