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ARECS: South Korean Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemical Substances
Bio: The word "bio" used as a prefix or even an adjective frequently appears in everyday language to describe a product or a solution, mainly as a marketing tool. A bioproduct would typically mean a bio-based product, that is, derived from biomass. However, its use is not universally defined. For example, “bio” in France applies mainly to food and means “organic”. So without reference to clear and agreed definitions, it can represent unsubstantiated claims, which can be deceptive. Similar words would be “eco,” “eco-friendly,” or “green”.
Bio-based: Derived from biomass. Biomass may have undergone physical, chemical or biological treatment(s).
Bio-based carbon or biogenic carbon: Applies to the carbon atoms present in the molecule that are derived from biomass.
Bio-based carbon content: Fraction of carbon derived from biomass in a product. There are several approaches to express the bio-based carbon content. These include as a percentage of: the mass, the total carbon content, or the total organic carbon content of the sample. These are detailed in the relevant standards.1
Bio-based content: Fraction of a product that is derived from biomass. It takes into account the carbon, but also hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen components of the product. Normally expressed as a percentage of the total mass of the product.2
Bio-based product: Product wholly or partly derived from biomass. The bio-based product is normally characterized by the bio-based carbon content or the bio-based content. A “product” can be an intermediate, material, semi-finished, or final product. When "bio-based product" is used to refer to a product that is partly bio-based, the claim should be accompanied by a quantification of the bio-based content or bio-based carbon content.
Biodegradation: Degradation caused by biological activity, e.g. by enzymatic action, leading to a significant change in the chemical structure of a product. According to this definition, anything is deemed to be biodegradable, it only depends on how long this process takes. For a regular plastic bottle, it can be 100 to 1000 years. This is why when making claims for biodegradable materials, it is important to always use an international standard to establish biodegradation conditions and timeframe. All test methods for biodegradation measure the transformation of materials into carbon dioxide.
Biomass: Material of biological origin excluding material embedded in geological formations and/or fossilised. EXAMPLES: (whole or parts of) plants, trees, algae, marine organisms, microorganisms, animals, etc.
Biomass content: Fraction of a product that is derived from biomass.
Bioplastics: According to the European Bioplastics association, bioplastics are plastic materials that are either bio-based, biodegradable, or both.
Biopolymer: A polymer produced by living organisms. They are polymeric biomolecules.
Bio-sourced: Equivalent to bio-based.
Carbon neutral: Human activities release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But there are also natural or artificial “carbon sinks”, i.e. processes that are able to capture and/or sequester more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. Carbon neutrality, at a specific perimeter (a company, a nation, planet Earth), is a state of equilibrium where all greenhouse gas emissions are counterbalanced by some form of carbon sequestration. When this equilibrium is reached, we can state, at the limits of the perimeter that we considered, that we are at a “net zero emissions” (all greenhouse gas emissions caused by the system have been sequestered).
Carbon sink: A process that is able to capture and/or sequester more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.
Circular economy: An economic model that demonstrates a complete system incorporating a positive end of life to the product. This is in opposition to a linear model where the end product is intended to become waste( i.e. make, use, dispose).
Circularity: The state of being circular.
COD: Chemical Oxygen Demand. It is typically a measure of the amount of organic materials in effluent water. The analytical method involves oxidation of the organic materials, so the COD is the amount of oxygen consumed in the reaction (in milligrams of oxygen per litre solution) and is a proxy for the concentration of organic materials.
Compostable: A material that is biodegradable under specific conditions (industrial composting or home composting), but also disintegrates (fragments below a certain size) and has no adverse effect to the compost for plant growing. A prerequisite for compostability is absence of adverse elements such as heavy metals.
Conflict resources: Natural resources extracted in a conflict zone and sold to perpetuate the fighting. This chiefly applies to some minerals such as gold, diamonds, but also tungsten, for example.
CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility. The ownership a company takes to operate in ways that improves its impact on the environment and society (i.e. sustainably).
Degradable: Refers to any material that breaks down in the environment. The term does not indicate how it is broken down, or whether or not the end materials are biological or helpful to the environment.
Degradation: Irreversible process leading to a significant change in the structure of a product. Degradation is typically characterised by a change of properties (e.g. integrity, molecular mass, structure, or mechanical strength) and/or by fragmentation. The process may be affected by environmental conditions, proceeding over a period of time, and comprising one or more steps.
Durability: Ability of a product to retain the values of its properties under specified conditions.
ECHA: The European Chemicals Agency; the driving force among regulatory authorities in implementing the European Union’s chemicals legislation.
Eco-friendly: A broad term meaning not harmful to the environment. The term does not have a detailed definition, so no specific traits can be assumed.
Eco-label: A mark added to packaging or labelling to easily identify a product that meets specific environmental, sourcing, or performance criteria.
Economy: (One of the three pillars of Sustainability.) Describes the need for a business to be profitable in order to be described as sustainable. Also encompasses the economic wellbeing of workers and communities.
End of life scenario: A description of how a material or product is disposed of at the end of its lifecycle.
Environment: (One of the three pillars of Sustainability.) Includes air and water pollution, solid waste management, ecosystem management, maintenance of biodiversity, and the protection of natural resources, wildlife, and endangered species.
GHG: Greenhouse Gas. A gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to warming the planet.
GHS: Global Harmonised System of classification and labelling of chemicals.
Green: A broad term meaning good for the environment or planet. The term does not have a detailed definition, so no specific traits can be assumed.
Greenwashing: A misleading marketing or communication practice, where a company or a product is presented to the public as “better” for the environment or for human rights, or “sustainable” without proper data to back the claim. Typical examples are the use of photographs of pristine nature or happy people, using reports without context, and cherry-picking the UN SDGs to describe the impact of a product.
HSE: Health, Safety, and Environmental management. The planning, implementation, management, and monitoring in the workplace of the environment, health protection, and occupational safety.
QHSE is the abbreviation of quality, health, safety, and environment.
HSEQ: Health, Safety, Environment, and Quality. The planning, implementation, management, and monitoring in the workplace of the environment, health protection, occupational safety and quality. (Sometimes listed as QHSE.)
Life cycle assessment (LCA): Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs, and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
Mass balance: Relationship between input and output of a specific substance within a system in which the output from the system cannot exceed the input into the system. In the context of sustainability, it defines a certification process allowing to:
- Include a certain fraction of renewable (bio-based or recycled) content in the petroleum-based stream
- Allocate the renewable content to a specific product or product line through a certificate
Menstrual poverty: The lack of access to sanitary feminine hygiene products due to financial constraints.
Net zero emissions: The amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere by human action within a certain perimeter (a company, a country, or Planet Earth) are being absorbed in carbon sinks through human action. This is the end stage of a carbon neutrality program
Oxo-biodegradation: Degradation resulting from oxidative and cell-mediated phenomena, either simultaneously or successively. However, this process is thought to merely fragment the material into small pieces that remain in—and potentially harm—the environment. They may endanger recycling and composting. For this reason, oxo-biodegradation is being banned by many organisations.
PCR: Post Consumer Recycled stream. Reprocessed material from household or commercial waste.
Raw materials: The ingredients that make up or are used to produce a final product.
REACH: A European regulation that aims to make in-depth changes in the way chemical substances are managed. This is accomplished by improving the level of knowledge of these substances, analysing their environmental and health risks, and defining measures to manage the risks arising from their use or manufacture.
Recyclable: Able to be recycled.
Recycled: A material re-used or returned to a previous stage (or state) in a circular process.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (The Three Rs): A common mantra referring to three ways to minimise environmental harm. Reduce the use of raw materials and other natural resources. Reuse items and raw materials. Recycle products after use so their component parts can be reused in future products.
Renewable: Can be used to described a material or an energy source. Renewable means “derived from a source that can be replenished continuously after use”. Fossil resources or fossil-based energy (gas, coal, crude oil) are not renewable. Bio-based materials are renewable. Energy sources such as sun, wind, and waves are renewable.
Resources: The raw materials, energy sources, water, and air used in or affected by production of a final product.
Responsible Care®: A voluntary initiative undertaken by the chemical industry to responsibly manage its operations and products, based on a continuous improvement process.
SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals. A set of goals, targets, or indicators that an organisation uses to frame its approach to sustainability. (Sometimes used as an abbreviation for UNSDGs.)
SDSs: Safety Data Sheets, required by many countries, describing a product’s characteristics and conditions of use.
Society: (One of the three pillars of Sustainability.) Includes the health and well-being of societies and the people within them.
Sustainability: A measure of how well, or a state of achieving, Sustainable Development.
Sustainable: See Sustainable Development.
Sustainable development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable development is about integrating the goals of a high quality of life, health, and prosperity with social justice and maintaining the earth's capacity to support life in all its diversity. These social, economic, and environmental goals are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Sustainable development can be treated as a way of expressing the broader expectations of society as a whole.
Sustainably sourced: Indicates that all issues of sustainable development have been considered when choosing suppliers and raw materials.
SVHCs: Substances of Very High Concern. Substances that may have serious effects on human health and the environment. These are primarily substances which are carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic to reproduction. A candidate list of SVHC is updated and published every 6 months by ECHA.
Three pillars of sustainability: Though there is no precise theory or description of this concept, sustainability is represented as the intersection of three intertwined concepts, or pillars: society, environment, and economy. It represents the need for creating economic growth as a solution to our environmental challenges and societal problems.3
Total carbon (TC): Quantity of carbon present in a product in the form of organic, inorganic, and elemental carbon.
Total organic carbon (TOC): Quantity of organic carbon present in a product. Total organic carbon is often determined as the carbon that is converted into carbon dioxide by combustion and which is not liberated as carbon dioxide by acid treatment.
TRIR: Total Reported Incident Rate. A measure using a formula to compare injury rates across operations, typically calculated by dividing the number of incidents by a unit of hours worked (typically 1 million hours).
TSCA: The United States’ Toxic Substances Control Act. An act providing the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to require the reporting, record-keeping, testing, and restriction of chemical substances.
VOC: Volatile Organic Compound. An organic chemical compound that under normal conditions is a gas or can vaporise and enter the atmosphere.
UN Global Compact: A non-binding United Nations agreement to encourage businesses and firms worldwide to adopt and report on sustainable and socially responsible policies.
UN SDG: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A collection of 17 interlinked global goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. They are designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all".
Waste: Any substance, mixture of substances, material, or object which the holder discards, intends, or is required to discard.
WBCSD: World Business Council for Sustainable Development. A global organisation consisting of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable world.
1 EN 16640 or ASTM D6866.
2 For the methodology to determine the bio-based content, see EN 16785-1
3 Purvis, B et al, Sustainability Science (2019) 14:681–695
- NF EN16575 (bio-based products – vocabulary)