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FAQ

Questions for Businesses Manufacturing and Selling Biobased Products

Questions for Consumers about Biobased Products

Glossary of Terms

Questions for Businesses Manufacturing and Selling Biobased Products

Q. Who can apply for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label?

  • A. Manufacturers and distributors of biobased products may apply for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label. Biobased products already identified within a USDA designated item category under the Federal procurement preference portion of the BioPreferred program must meet the minimum biobased content of the product category. Products that do not fall under a designated item must be 25 percent biobased unless the label applicant applies for and receives an alternative minimum biobased content allowance. Mature market products, which are excluded from the Federal procurement preference program, are also excluded from carrying the USDA certified biobased product label. (See definition of mature market products).

Q. How do I apply for the label?

  • A. Applicants are required to submit an application to USDA. Applicants will bear the cost of having products tested for biobased content

Q. How are applications for the label evaluated?

  • A. USDA will evaluate each complete application to determine if the product meets the certification criteria. USDA will approve applications for label certification that meet the criteria and reject those that do not. Explanations will accompany rejected applications. Rejected applicants may revise applications and resubmit for consideration.

Q. If my product is designated for the Federal Procurement Purchasing program and meets the requirements for minimum biobased content for its category, and that category allows biobased content less than 25%, can I still get the certification label?

  • A. Yes, Biobased products already identified within existing product categories under the Federal procurement preference must meet the minimum biobased content of the category.

Q. If my product is designated in the Federal Procurement Preference program, do I still have to apply for the certification label, or is it automatic?

  • A. Yes, you still must apply for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label.

Q. Is there a cost to apply for the USDA Certified Biobased label?

  • A. At this time, there is no cost for manufacturers or distributors to participate in the USDA application process. However, businesses will be responsible for the cost of having the product tested for minimum biobased content. Product testing is done using ASTM standard D6866.

Q. How long does the approval process take once I apply for the label?

  • A. The USDA BioPreferred program has an initial goal of a maximum of 60 days for an application to receive approval (or denial). Over time, USDA BioPreferred hopes to shorten the process, still keeping it as efficient and as effective as possible. If the approval takes longer than 60 day, there is no penalty imposed on or paperwork required by the applicant.

Q. If my product is designated for the Federal Procurement Purchasing program and meets the requirements for minimum biobased content for its category, and that category allows biobased content less than 25%, can I still get the certification label?

  • A. Yes, Biobased products already identified within existing product categories under the Federal procurement preference must meet the minimum biobased content of the category.

Q. Is there a cost to apply for the USDA Certified Biobased label?

  • A. At this time, there is no cost for manufacturers or distributors to participate in the USDA application process. However, businesses will be responsible for the cost of having the product tested for minimum biobased content. Product testing is done using ASTM standard D6866.

Q. How long does the approval process take once I apply for the label?

  • A. The USDA BioPreferred program has an initial goal of a maximum of 60 days for an application to receive approval (or denial). Over time, USDA BioPreferred hopes to shorten the process, still keeping it as efficient and as effective as possible. If the approval takes longer than 60 day, there is no penalty imposed on or paperwork required by the applicant.

Q. If my product is certified and eligible for the label, are entities that use the certified product but sell, distribute or incorporate into a product under a different name, such as a private label, also eligible to use the certification label?

  • A. Yes, as long as the actual product also meets the minimum content level. You will need to complete an application for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label.

Q. What is considered to be a mature product?

  • A. Mature market products are excluded from the Federal procurement preference program and from the USDA Certified Biobased Product label. Mature market products are defined as those products that had a significant market penetration in 1972. Examples of mature market products include cotton shirts or towels, paper plates, and wood furniture.

Q. Is it required to provide third party verification of biobased content to be in the BioPreferred catalog?

  • A. The manufacturer must self certify that they meet the minimum biobased content set for their product’s category in order to be included in the catalog. However, a Federal agency considering the purchase of your product may require third party verification. Testing is required to for a product to carry a USDA Certified Biobased Product label. The USDA BioPreferred catalog distinguishes labeled products.

Q. If my product has been tested in order to qualify for the Federal Procurement Preference program, does it have to be tested again for the certification label?

  • A. In response to concerns submitted by program participants, USDA has elected to modify their position on acceptance of previously tested products for USDA Certified Biobased Product label applications. Products tested between February 20, 2010 – February 20, 2011 will be considered ‚Legacy‛ Products and will be able to apply for the label. Applicants will be asked to complete a separate authorization form provided by USDA via email. USDA will then contact the lab for a copy of the test results which will be attached to the Label Application (results will NOT be certified by ASTM).

Q. Where can I get a list of approved testing laboratories?

Q. As part of the label application process, what does product testing cost?

  • A. The testing cost is determined by the laboratory, but costs are estimated in the several hundreds of dollars per product. Hopefully, the volume of testing the USDA BioPreferred program generates will spur competition resulting in lower costs among the approved laboratories.

Q. Is water included in the calculation of biobased content?

  • A. No, water does not contain carbon, thus it is not included in the testing results.

Q. If I’ve already had my products tested with one of the approved laboratories, will this help expedite the process or reduce my costs?

  • A. It may. USDA recognizes that some products registered with BioPreferred and completed testing with the BioPreferred program prior to the 'BioPreferred program's Labeling Initiative' (February 2011) and allows a waiver of the requirement of re-testing for products tested for biobased content prior to the inception of the 'BioPreferred Labeling Program' only under limited circumstances when a company paid for and completed testing on a product from the dates of 2/20/2010- 2/20/2011.

Q. Is any USDA or other financial or grant assistance available to help defray the costs of testing?

  • A. USDA does not have such assistance, but some states may already have or be in the process of developing assistance programs. Hopefully, the availability of the USDA certification label will help state and local governments, agricultural, trade, and other organizations realize the benefits of promoting biobased materials and generate such efforts, particularly for small business. As USDA becomes aware of such efforts, it will post appropriate links on this website.

Q. Why was the minimum content required for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label set at 25% and not higher?

  • A. USDA BioPreferred consulted with many stakeholders in determining this threshold. Stakeholders consulted by USDA in the decision making process included technical experts, industry, the environmental community, the Federal government and similar programs around the world. USDA BioPreferred also utilized its own experience and expertise. It was judged that the 25% level would not only harmonize with efforts of the international community and best reflect the consensus judgment of those consulted, but was designed to spur consumer acceptance of the label. USDA BioPreferred believes that while the 25% level is not insignificant, threshold levels are likely to rise as industries mature.

  • A. The purpose of this certification and label is to verify the presence of biobased ingredients, and to be explicit in just how much biobased content is incorporated into labeled products. The label is not meant to impart environmental attributes to biobased products; rather it points to biobased content-- agricultural materials, forestry materials, and marine and animal materials. USDA believes it is cost prohibitive for manufacturers of biobased certified and labeled products -- many of whom are small, entrepreneurial firms -- to perform such a life-cycle on their products when USDA does not have a plan for utilizing those data at this time.

Questions for Consumers about Biobased Products

Q. What are biobased products?

  • A. A biobased product is a product that is determined by the USDA to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials forestry materials, and marine and animal materials. Biobased products do not include motor vehicle fuels, heating oil, electricity produced from biomass, or , since the program is designed to stimulate markets for new biobased products, any "mature market" products. Mature market products are those biobased products that had significant national market penetration in 1972. Examples of mature market products include cotton shirts or towels, paper plates, and wood furniture.

Q. What is the purpose of the USDA Certified Biobased Product label?

  • A. The USDA Certified Biobased Product label is designed to empower the consumer to take into account that a product or package contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients and that the consumer can only be assured of the accuracy of this content if they purchase products that are labeled USDA Certified Biobased Product.

Q. Why did the USDA develop a BioPreferred program?

  • A. Congress mandated the BioPreferred program to promote the increased purchase and use of biobased products that provide opportunities to boost domestic demand for renewable commodities and to create jobs and investment income.

Q. What does USDA BioPreferred mean?

  • A. The biobased ingredients may be renewable, i.e., derived from a naturally recurring source, but there could be other ingredients in the product that are not.

Q. Are biobased products safer than non-biobased products for me and my family?

  • A. Not necessarily. Read the label fully. Precautionary labeling for consumer safety for both products and packaging is highly regulated by Federal law. Look for signal words such as ‚CAUTION‛, ‚WARNING, ‚DANGER‛ and ‚POISON‛. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

Q. Are biobased products better for the environment?

  • A. They can be. There is an expectation that the increased use of biobased products will reduce petroleum consumption, increase the use of renewable resources, better manage the carbon cycle, and, may contribute to reducing adverse environmental and health impacts.

Q. Are biobased products organic?

  • A. Check the product label to determine the manufacturer’s claims regarding biodegradability.

Q. Does a higher percentage of Biobased content mean a product is “better”?

  • A. Not necessarily. There is no guarantee that higher content makes the product perform any better (or is safer for humans or the environment).

Q. Are the products with the USDA Certified Biobased Product label government tested?

  • A. Yes, products are tested to verify the actual content of biobased materials in the product, by percentage of weight. The USDA, through a cooperative agreement with, Iowa State University, examines products in conformance with ASTM International standards. ASTM is an internationally recognized nonprofit standards setting organization. The USDA asked ASTM to develop a standard for determining biobased content. The standard uses highly sophisticated radiocarbon dating to assure the accurate measurement of a product’s biobased content. The standard is now embodied in Federal law.

Q. Do USDA Certified Biobased Products contain only biobased ingredients from U.S. agriculture?

  • A. Imported products are eligible for certification, but they have to meet the same minimum content, verification standards and test, and program requirements as U.S. products. They are subject to disclose ingredients and country of origin to the extent U.S. law requires.

Glossary of Terms

Applicable minimum biobased content- The biobased content that products need to be at or above in order to be eligible for USDA Certified Biobased Product labeling and Federal preferred procurement.

ASTM International (ASTM) - A nonprofit organization that provides an international forum for the development and publication of voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems, and services.

Biobased content - The amount of biobased carbon in the material or product expressed as a percent of weight (mass) of the total organic carbon in the material or product. For products within designated items, the biobased content shall be defined and determined as specified in the applicable section of subpart B of part 2902. For all other products, the biobased content is to be determined using ASTM Method D6866, Standard Test Methods for Determining the Biobased Content of Natural Range Materials Using Radiocarbon and Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry Analysis.

USDA Certified Biobased Product - A product (for commercial or consumer use), that contains in whole or in part materials, chemicals and energy derived from renewable living biological matter, also known as biomaterials, that meet the criteria for inclusion in the USDA BioPreferred program. Specifically, a USDA Certified Biobased Product℠ is a commercial/consumer or industrial product (other than food or feed) and includes renewable agricultural materials, forestry materials, and marine and animal materials.

Biobased product - A biobased product is a product that is determined by the USDA to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials forestry materials, and marine and animal materials. Biobased products do not include motor vehicle fuels, heating oil, electricity produced from biomass, or , since the program is designed to stimulate markets for new biobased products, any mature market products. Mature market products are those biobased products that had significant national market penetration in 1972. Examples of mature market products include cotton shirts or towels, paper plates, and wood furniture.

Biodegradable/Biodegradability - Product biodegradability is not a prerequisite for the BioPreferred program or for the labeling program. Some of the biobased products certified by the program are designed to be disposed of after a single use and/or used in environmentally sensitive applications. USDA believes that biodegradability is an important feature that should be considered when purchasing, using, and disposing of these products. In simple terms, biodegradability measures the ability of microorganisms present in the disposal environment to completely consume the biobased carbon product within a reasonable time frame and in the specified environment.

BioPreferred - BioPreferred is the name of the proprietary USDA program that refers to both the preferred Federal procurement/purchasing program and the voluntary consumer labeling program. When referring to the product labeling initiative of the BioPreferred program, USDA Certified Biobased Product ℠ is the descriptor for products labeled under the certification program.

Certified Biobased Product - A biobased product for which the manufacturer or vendor of the product has received approval from USDA to affix to the product the USDA Certified Biobased Product label.

Certification Mark - Certification Mark means the representation of USDA BioPreferred℠ in the form of a certification graphic

Compostable - Composting is one environment under which biodegradability occurs. In that composting environment, the explanation of the environment, the degree of microbial utilization (biodegradation), and the time frame within which it occurs are specified through established standards. For example, non-floating biodegradable plastics can also biodegrade in a marine environment. "Compostable" generally means a product is capable of biological decomposition under controlled aerobic conditions, such as found in a compost pile or compost bin, by microorganisms or soil invertebrates. However, some products may not fully degrade (i.e., biodegrade) in a "backyard" compost pile versus an industrial facility.

Federal Preferred Procurement - Federal purchasing guidelines for biobased products

Intermediate Materials - an intermediate ingredient or feedstock containing in whole or in part materials, chemicals and energy derived from living biological matter

ISO - The International Organization for Standardization is a network of national standards institutes working in partnership with international organizations, governments, industries, business, and consumer representatives.

ISO 9001 conformant - An entity that meets all of the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard, but that is not required to be ISO 9001 certified. ISO 9001 refers to the ISO standards and guidelines relating to "quality management" systems. "Quality management" is defined as what the manufacturer does to ensure that its products or services satisfy the customer’s quality requirements and comply with any regulations applicable to those products or services.

Label - Collectively, the label artwork and the biobased product statement(s), including the applicable biobased content(s) make up the USDA Certified Biobased Product label.

Label artwork. The certification marks, "USDA Certified Biobased Product" and the "USDA Certified Biobased Product" logo, and, where applicable, the letters "FP" to indicate that the product is within a designated item and eligible for Federal preferred procurement. Application of either certification mark by a manufacturer or vendor signifies that USDA has certified that the product meets the qualifications in this part.

Labeled Product - a product that meets USDA criteria for application of the USDA Certified Biobased Product℠ Certification Mark on the product

Mature Market Products - Mature Market Products are products that had a significant market share as of 1972 and are currently excluded from the program. These products include those made largely from common or unprocessed biotic material such as wood, leather and cotton.

Service Mark (SM): A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.

Trademark (TM): A trademark includes any word, name, symbol or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods.

 
 
 
 
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