Learn the lingo! We’ve defined important industry terms below.


Bio-degradable can be defined as the degradation resulting from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae within a reasonable timeframe. ASTM D6400 specifies these terms for labeling requirements but only for plastics, not paper.

California Plastic Bag Litter and Waste Reduction Bill (CA AB 2449):

Requires all CA grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags. Retailers also must provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity and implement a public education program.

California Truthful Environmental Advertising for Plastics Bill (CA AB 1972):

Ensures accurate environmental advertising of plastics by allowing only the use of terms that can be verified by American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) standard specifications. The legislation prohibits false claims like “bio-degradable” unless
verified to meet specific standard.


Compostable is loosely defined as a material that is able to biologically decompose and transform a biodegradable material into a soil like substance called compost.

FSC – Forest Stewardship Certification:

FSC accredited, independent, “third-party” certification bodies or “certifiers”
certify forests. They assess forest management using the FSC principles, criteria, and standards with each certifier using their own evaluative process. This allows FSC to remain outside of the assessment process, supporting the integrity
of the FSC standard and system.

FSC-certified paper bags can originate from post-consumer recycled fiber or from forests certified according to the FSC’s rigorous forest management standards.

Post Consumer Recycled Materials:

Sometimes abbreviated to PCR, it is material that would otherwise be destined for solid waste disposal, having completed its intended end use and product life cycle. “Postconsumer recycled material” does not include materials and by-products generated
from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing and fabrication process.

Post Industrial Recycled Materials:

Sometimes abbreviated to PIR, it is material produced from industrial or manufacturing waste, such as scrap materials or materials not used in the original industrial production process.

Recyclable Paper Bag:

Recycled paper bag means a paper carryout bag provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale that meets certain specifications set by a municipal ordinance, and typically has some minimum percentage of PRC.

Recycled vs. Recyclable:

Recycled products are made from material that is recovered from waste. Recyclable products can be collected from waste and its material reused.

Reusable Bag:

Reusable bag means a bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuses and may need to meet specifications set by a municipal ordinance.

Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics (ASTM D6400):

This specification covers plastics and products made from plastics that are designed to compost in municipal and industrial composting facilities. The purpose of the specification is to establish standards for identifying products and materials that will
compost satisfactorily in municipal composting facilities. According to the standard, the compostable material should completely biodegrade in 180 days in a commercial composting facility.

Single-Use Plastic Bag:

A single-use plastic bag is made of plastic derived from petroleum or biological source (ex. corn) provided to customer at point of sale. Includes compostable and biodegradable bags. Excludes reusable bags, produce bags, or product bags.

Sustainable Packaging:

Involves looking at the entire supply chain. Materials and process must be sourced in a way that mitigates its environmental footprint and impact on resources. Sustainable also implies that packaging must meet criteria for performance and cost. At the
end of packaging life cycle, the material must be recyclable or biodegradable.

Virgin Materials:

Material that has not been previously used or consumed, or subjected to processing other than for its original production as opposed to recycled and or reclaimed material.


Resin Codes

A set of symbols placed on plastics to identify their polymer type to allow efficient separation of different polymer types for recycling.


PET, also known as Polyethylene terephthalate, is a type of plastic with resin code #1. Also commonly referred to as Polyester
and is typically used in plastic bottles (carbonation). PET is sometimes used in reusable bags.


HDPE, also known as High Density Polyethylene, is a type of plastic with resin code #2. Plastic grocery store bags are usually
only HDPE Polyethylene. HDPE is resistant to many chemicals and has a wide variety of applications. Very strong, top to bottom direction.

Tyvek® (HDPE)

Tyvek® is a non-woven polyethylene spunbond HDPE fiber product. It is very strong and difficult to tear, but can be cut with scissors. Tyvek® is highly breathable but liquid water cannot penetrate making it a material ideally suited for reusable bags.
Despite that it is made of #2 HDPE, it is not usually collected as part of curbside recycling programs, but can be.


PVC, also known as Polyvinyl chloride, or Vinyl, is a type of plastic with resin code #3.  It is typically characterized
by its ability to flex and is used in a variety of products including pipe, non-food bottles, shower curtains, and bags.  Many manufacturers steer away from using PVC due to its toxicity emitted into the air, water and land. Read more here:


LDPE, also known as Low-Density Polyethylene is a type of plastic with resin code #4. LDPE is more flexible than HDPE and
is used in a variety of products including, bottles, tubing, and plastic packaging bags. Very strong in both top to bottom and side to side directions.


PP, also known as Polypropylene, is a plastic with resin code #5. Polypropylene has a many applications and is used for auto
parts, food containers, dishware, and some bags.


Non-Woven Polypropylene (Resin code #5) is an application of polypropylene fibers that are arranged into a web randomly and bound together. Very common for reusable bags.


Woven Polypropylene (Resin code #5) is an application of polypropylene continuous fibers that are woven into a fabric. Very common for reusable bags.


A common application for polypropylene is as Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP). BOPP is made into sheets and used to make a wide variety of materials such as clear bags. BOPP is crystal clear and serves as an excellent packaging material for aesthetic
retail products.


PS, also known as Polystyrene, is a type of plastic with the resin code #6. Solid polystyrene is a colorless, hard plastic
with limited flexibility. There are a variety of products made from polystyrene. It is commonly used as Styrofoam for packaging, insulation, and foam drink cups. It also is used in solid form in disposable cutlery, plastic models and
can be made into molds with fine detail. Polystyrene is extremely resistant to degradation and will remain in its original form for hundreds of years.


Types of plastic that do not fall into the other standardized resin codes can be placed in this miscellaneous category. Plastics
include acrylic, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, polyactic acid (a bioplastic), and multilayer combinations of other plastics, etc.


RipStop fabrics are woven often out of nylon, using a reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping. Nylon is the most common material used but RipStop fabrics can be made using cotton, silk, polyester and polypropylene. RipStop
is ideal for applications where durability is important. It is used in yacht sails, hot air balloons, parachutes, camping equipment. RipStop reusable bags also are available and ideal for heavy reuse due to the material strength.


Canvas is a heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, painting surfaces, bags, etc. Canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, although could be made of other materials. It is an ideal material for reusable bags.


Bioplastics are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable fats and oils, cornstarch, etc. rather than petroleum based plastics. Bioplastic is also known as PLA, or Polyactic Acid. Bioplastics are used to manufacture an
enormous variety of typical plastic products. The biodegradability of bioplastics is standardized by ASTM D6400 which requiring claims that a product is compostable or biodegradable meet its specifications to do so in 180 days.