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Tree In A Bottle: PLA & Bioplastics

Using O’right’s green product as one of the Organic Salon System’s key and unique environmental initiatives in maintaining green hair care

What is meant by the phrase “green hair care”?
1.) Increasing the amount of sustainable plant derived material in the formula
2.) Improving biodegradability
3.) Reducing water content
4.) Reducing the generation of hazardous materials

Eco-friendly and Innovative—a “Green” Green Tea Shampoo

Recognizing that more than 90 percent of the non-biodegradable waste clogging up landfills is largely composed of plastics, including shampoo and conditioner bottles, O’right, distributed in North America exclusively by Organic Salon Systems, has taken eco-friendly packaging to the next level with its one-of-a-kind “Tree in a Bottle.” This is the world’s first and only plantable bottle that has the ability to grow a tree from its disposal due to its pre-loaded seeds. Not only is it certified biodegradable by internationally recognized environmental organizations, but it also is the first salon product to use Polylactic acid, also known as polylactide, (PLA) to create the shampoo’s plastic container.

What Are PLA Plastics and Why Are They Important?

Polylactic acid is a linear, thermoplastic polyester used in forming plastics that have a wide range of applications. Let’s first break up these terms and define them. Thermoplastic, also known as thermosoftening plastic, is a polymer (large molecule composed of repeating structural units) that can be easily re-melted and re-molded. This is important because PLA has a relatively low melting point compared to other molecules that are used in creating plastic, thus allowing the plastic to more easily degrade or decompose. Because PLA is a natural polyester (a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain), it comes from the naturally occurring chemicals found in the leaves of plants. More specifically, it is found in the cutin (large polyester molecule made up of organic acids) of plant cuticles (a protective waxy covering produced only by the epidermal cells of leaves). Thus, PLA is natural down to its most basic molecule.

What Are Bioplastics?

PLA can also be referred to as a bioplastic because they are derived from renewable resources such as vegetable fats and oils, corn and pea starch, or sugarcanes. The PLA used in O’right’s “Tree in a Bottle” packaging is extracted from waste fruits, vegetables, and plants and is processed into a plastic-like starch through fermenting (creates the lactic acid), dehydrating (losing water), and polymerizing (large chains of smaller molecules) the natural waste products. More simply, this is an all-natural process that occurs through the breakdown of molecules via micro-organisms, which then allows for the build-up of the smaller molecules into longer chains to form the desired plastic. In other words, the PLA blends come in the form of granulates with various properties that are used in the plastic processing industry for the production of various products, specifically including O’right’s Green Tea Shampoo bottle.

Why are Bioplastics Beneficial to the Environment?

Bioplastics are a sustainable alternative to petrochemical-derived products (chemical products derived from petroleum), since the lactides from which it is ultimately produced can be derived from the fermentation (biological process) of agricultural by-products. In other words, bioplastics rely less on fossil fuel as a carbon source and introduces fewer net-new greenhouse emissions because they are not made with petroleum. Leading manufacturers of PLA Bioplastics confirm that making PLA delivers a fossil fuel saving of between 25% and 68% compared to that of petroleum based polyethylene. In addition, they are more sustainable than synthetic (artificial) plastics because they can break down in the environment faster than fossil-fuel plastics, which can take more than 100 years to degrade. By planting the empty O’right Shampoo bottle in the ground to biodegrade (chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means), it reduces the amount of waste clogging up the landfills that are seen with the disposal of synthetic plastics.

Biodegradation and HBP

PLA is a specific type of biodegradable plastic called hydro-biodegradable plastics (HBP). In the decomposition process, they undergo chemical sodium carbon dioxide degradation by hydrolysis (added water molecules break down molecules) and oxidation (loss of electrons). This results in their physical disintegration and drastic reduction in their molecular weight. These smaller, lower molecular weight fragments are then amenable to biodegradation. This is what occurs when the O’right bottle biodegrades once it is placed in the soil. The bottle decomposes through various factors, such as aerobic digestion (bacterial breakdown using oxygen), into carbon dioxide, water, and fertilizer that is used as nutrients to nourish the seeds. Because of the bottle’s ability to degrade into a fertilizer that nourishes the internal seeds and because the seeds eventually turn into a photosynthesizing plant, the bottle actually yields a net negative carbon footprint.

What is a “carbon footprint”?

A carbon footprint is the sum of an entity’s carbon waste, most specifically in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the Earth’s atmosphere. In other words, it is the account of how much carbon dioxide is released in a product’s lifetime—beginning with the raw materials, to the manufacturing and use of the product, and finally ending with its disposal. Amazingly, O’right’s novel green product yields a net negative carbon footprint as the amount of CO2 removed from the environment during the new plant’s photosynthesis exceeds the amount of CO2 released during the manufacturing of the product. Thus, the disposal of this product helps to remove the harmful greenhouse gas of CO2 that aids in increasing global warming.

How to Grow a Tree with Your Bottle

Each tree-in-the-bottle bottle comes pre-loaded with a select tree seed, but can easily be changed for a tree seed of the salon owner’s choice. This enables the salon owner to select a tree seed specifically suited to their salon’s taste or region.

Once the product has been used and the bottle is empty, the rinsed-out container can then be planted into the soil deep enough to cover the O’right logo. Over the next 6 months, the bottle will begin to break down into a nutrient rich compost. Finally, after 12 months the bottle will be almost completely decomposed and the seeds will begin to grow.

Best Decomposing Conditions:
Decomposition depends on a variety of factors such as soil conditions, temperature, and humidity. It needs adequate moisture (relative humidity >90%), adequate oxygen (non-closed environment), and proper temperature (58-70° C).

Product Recommendations:
1. Because the container is biodegradable, it is UV and heat sensitive and thus should not be used in window displays as they would expose the product to long periods of direct sunlight.
2. As the container is manufactured from eco-friendly materials, it should be handled with care due to its more pliable and less rigid nature.

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