IAPD Glossary of Sustainability Terms and Definitions

The following terms and definitions are provided to help IAPD member companies adhere to and comprehend IAPD’s best practices for conservation and the environment.

Aerobic DegradationThe breakdown of a molecule into smaller chemical entities in the presence of oxygen. (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA) Aerobic degradation includes aerobic treatment which is a process by which microbes decompose complex organic compounds in the presence of oxygen and use the liberated energy for reproduction and growth. (Such processes include extended aeration, trickling filtration and rotating biological contactors.)

Anaerobic DegradationThe metabolism of substances by bacteria that do not require oxygen to live.

Air PermitLegally enforceable documents designed to improve compliance by clarifying what facilities (sources) must do to control air pollution.

Best PracticeBest practice is an effective, innovative solution, process or procedure that demonstrates a business’ dedication to making progress in environmental and corporate social responsibility; sometimes shared with collaborators and competitors to shape standards for an industry.

Bio-Based MaterialA bio-based material or “biomaterial” is any material made from renewable plant matter (as opposed to non-renewable prehistoric plant material, fossil fuels), including agricultural crops, resi­dues and trees. Sustainable biomaterials are those that are (1) sourced from sustainably grown and harvested cropland or forests, (2) manufactured without hazardous inputs and im­pacts, (3) healthy and safe for the environment during use and (4) designed to be reused at the end of their intended use such as via recycling or composting.

Biodegradable Biodegradable materials can be degraded by microorganisms such as bacteria, enzymes and fungi. This degradation produces water, carbon dioxide and/or methane and in some cases residues nontoxic to the environment. This term can be applied to chemicals and substrates used in the printing industry. Specific test methods can be applied to determine biodegradability (ASTM Test Method 6400/6868). When the methane is not captured, it is released into the atmosphere where it significantly contributes to the greenhouse effect (20 times more harmful than CO2).

Bioplastics A form of plastic derived from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch, micro biota, etc. Bioplastics are used either as a direct replacement for traditional, petroleum-based plastics or as blends with traditional plastics. Use of bioplastics does not automatically guarantee sustainability. Full product life cycle is necessary to assess all associated environmental impacts of a product from sourcing of raw materials through production, distribution and use to disposal.

Carbon FootprintA carbon footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. It is meant to be a useful metric for individuals and organizations as they conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact on global warming.

Carbon NeutralCarbon neutral, or carbon neutrality, refers to a net zero carbon release, brought about by balancing the amount of carbon re­leased with the amount sequestered or offset.

Carbon OffsetA carbon offset is the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting emissions generated in one location with emissions re­ductions or displacements in another where it is technically and/or economically more feasible to achieve those reductions. Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. Carbon offsets can be purchased and traded through financial instruments representing greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Clean ProductionClean production is a concept developed under the Kyoto Pro­tocol in which manufacturing processes reduce environmental impact and decrease ecological problems by minimizing energy and raw materials use and making sure emissions and waste are as minimal and as non-toxic to environmental and human health as possible.

Closed-Loop RecyclingA process of using a recycled product in the manufacturing of a similar product or the remanufacturing of the same product.

Closed-Loop Supply ChainThis is an ideal in which a supply chain completely reuses, recycles or composts all wastes generated during production; at minimum “closed-loop supply chain” indicates that the company which produces a good is also responsible for its disposal.

Compostable The term compostable verifies that a material or mix of materials can be decomposed in a composting system within one composting cycle (ASTM Method 6400/6868). Composting is the controlled biological decomposition of organic material in the presence of air to form a humus-like material. Controlled methods of composting include mechanical mixing and aerating, ventilating the materials by dropping them through a vertical series of aerated chambers, or placing the compost in piles out in the open air and mixing it or turning it periodically.

Cradle-to-CradleA system by which materials are maintained in closed loops to maximize material value without damaging ecosystems. Cradle-to-cradle protocols minimize waste through recycling and reuse, rather than disposal.

Cradle-to-GraveA system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal; in effect, from “cradle to grave.”

Ecological FootprintThe total amount of land, food, water and other resources used by, or the total ecological impact of, a person or organization’s subsistence; usually measured in acres or hectares of productive land.

Effluent GuidelinesNational standards based on the performance of treatment and control technologies, for wastewater discharges to surface waters and municipal sewage treatment plants. Effluent guidelines are issued for categories of existing and new sources.

Energy RecoveryObtaining energy from waste through a variety of processes (e.g., combustion).

Environmental AuditAn independent assessment of the current status of a party’s compliance with applicable environmental requirements or of a party’s environmental compliance policies, practices and controls.

Environmental ImpactAny change to the environment, good or bad, that wholly or partially results from industrial/manufacturing activities, products or services.

Environmental Management System (EMS)A set of processes and practices that enable an organization to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.

Environmentally Sound TechnologiesTechniques and technologies capable of reducing environmental damage through processes and materials that generate fewer potentially damaging substances, recover such substances from emissions prior to discharge, or use and recycle production residues. The assessment of these technologies should account for their interaction with the socio-economic and cultural conditions under which they are implemented.

Green DesignThe design of products, services, buildings or experiences that are sensitive to environmental issues and achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in terms of energy and materials use.

Green ProductA green product has limited negative impact on the environment and society while delivering the same utility to the cus­to­mer (quality, performance, features, fabrication, application, durability) at the same or slightly higher price as a standard product.

Greenhouse EffectThe trapping of heat within the Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases such as CO2, which is necessary to keep the planet at a temperature warm enough to sustain life, but becomes dangerous when greenhouse gases produced by humans cause the effect to intensify and push the global temperature to too high a level.

Greenhouse GasA gas, such as carbon dioxide or methane, which contributes to potential climate change. The greenhouse effect is a process that raises the temperature of air in the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gases.

Greenwashing The unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, industry, government, politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy. Greenwashing is the process by which a company publicly and misleadingly declares itself to be environmentally friendly but internally participates in environmentally or socially unfriendly practices.

Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP)Toxic air pollutants, also known as HAPs, are those pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. U.S. EPA is working with state, local and tribal governments to reduce air toxic releases of 188 pollutants to the environment. Examples of toxic air pollutants include benzene, which is found in gasoline; perchlorethlyene, which is emitted from some dry cleaning facilities; and methylene chloride, which is used as a solvent and paint stripper by a number of industries. Examples of other listed air toxics include dioxin, asbestos, toluene and metals such as cadmium, mercury, chromium and lead compounds. U.S. EPA specifies Method 311 in the Printing and Publishing MACT standard for determination of hazardous air pollutants in publication rotogravure and wide web flexographic ink systems.

Hazardous WasteA waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. The universe of hazardous wastes is large and diverse. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, contained gases or sludges. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes or simply discarded commercial products, such as cleaning fluids or pesticides.

Incineration Also known as combustion, incineration is a controlled burning process to reduce waste volume. In addition to reducing volume, incineration can convert water into steam to fuel heating systems or generate electricity. Incineration facilities can also remove materials for recycling.

Landfill (Bioreactor Landfill)The final placement of waste in or on the land in a controlled or uncontrolled way according to different sanitary, environmental protection and other safety requirements. Bio­reactor landfill is a special type of landfill that is constructed in a way that allows for air circulation and circulation of liquid leachate in order to enable anaerobic degradation while capturing and using methane that is released during the degradation.

Lean Manufacturing (Lean)An overall methodology that seeks to minimize the resources required for production by eliminating waste (non-value added activities) that inflate costs, lead times and inventory requirements. It emphasizes the use of preventive maintenance, quality improvement programs, pull systems and flexible work forces and production facilities.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)A technique for assessing the potential environmental impacts of a product by examining all the material, resources, water and energy inputs and outputs at each life cycle stage.

Non-Renewable ResourceA natural resource that is unable to be regenerated or renewed fully and without loss of quality once it is used, e.g., fossil fuels or minerals.

Open-Loop RecyclingA recycling process in which materials from old products are made into new products in a manner that changes the inherent properties of the materials, often via a degradation in quality, such as recycling white writing paper into cardboard rather than more premium writing paper. Often used for steel, paper and plastic, open-loop recycling is also known as downcycling or reprocessing.

Permissible Exposure LimitAlso referred to as PEL, federal limits for workplace exposure to contaminants as established by OSHA.

Post-Consumer Materials/WasteMaterials or finished products that have served their intended use and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal, having completed their lives as consumer items. Post-consumer materials are part of the broader category of recovered materials.

Post-Consumer RecyclingUse of materials generated from residential and consumer waste for new or similar purposes; e.g., converting wastepaper from offices into corrugated boxes or newsprint.

Pollution Prevention (P2)The reduction or elimination of waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.

Recyclable Includes the reuse, reconditioning and remanufacturing of products or parts in another product.

Recycled ContentRefers to the percentage of recycled materials in a product. “Re­cycled content” includes products and packages that contain reused, reconditioned or remanufactured materials, as well as re­cycled raw material.

Recycling The reprocessing of old materials into new products, with the aims of preventing the waste of potentially useful materials, reducing the consumption of fresh raw materials, reducing energy usage, reducing air (from incineration) and water (from landfilling) pollution by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key concept of modern waste management and is the third component of the “Re­duce, Reuse, Recycle” waste hierarchy, though colloquial usage of “recycling” can also include “reuse.”

Renewable ResourceA natural resource qualifies as a renewable resource if it is re­plenished by natural processes at a rate comparable or faster than its rate of consumption by humans or other users. Resources such as solar radiation, tides and winds are perpetual resources that are in no danger of being used in excess of their long-term availability. Natural resources that qualify as renewable resources include oxygen, fresh water, timber and biomass. However, they can become non-renewable resources if used at a rate greater than the regeneration of new materials.

Stakeholder Stakeholder is an individual or group potentially affected by the activities of a company or organization; in sustainable business models the term includes financial shareholders as well as those affected by environmental or social factors such as suppliers, consumers, employees, the local community and the natural environment.

Sustainability and/or Sustainable DevelopmentMeeting the social, economic and environmental needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development).

Sustainable Design A process of product, service or organizational design that complies with the principles of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Waste Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. The universe of hazardous wastes is large and diverse. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, contained gases or sludges. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes or simply discarded commercial products, such as cleaning fluids or pesticides. Non-hazardous waste includes all solid waste that does not meet the definition of hazardous waste.

Waste ManagementThe collection, transport, processing, recycling or disposal of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity and is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, aesthetics or amenity. Waste management is also carried out to reduce the materials’ effect on the environment and to recover resources from them. Waste management can involve solid, liquid or gaseous substances, with different methods and fields of expertise for each.

Waste-to-EnergyA recovery process in which waste is incinerated or otherwise turned into steam or electricity and used to generate heat, light or power through the process of combustion.

Waste-to-Profit The process of using one company’s waste or by-product as the input or raw material for another company, thereby increasing business profits and decreasing waste; also referred to as byproduct synergy.

Zero WasteA production system aiming to eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials by conserving or recovering all resources.