Degradable Trash Bags Need Exposure

Environmentalists will cheer this new product--a biodegradable plastic trash bag that self-destructs when exposed to sunlight.

Manufactured by Minneapolis-based Poly-Tech Inc., the first leading U.S. manufacturer to offer a plastic bag that will naturally decompose, the bags (the company’s entire line of Ruffies brand Sure Sak bags) will be available in outlets across the country in November.

Leon Hoffmann, Poly-Tech’s chief financial officer, said in a phone interview that the new bag has been tested for more than a year. Once it is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, Hoffmann said, “it will degrade in several months even after it’s buried,” and will break down not only in landfills but in waterways or above-ground litter.

The new degradable bags are made of the same polyethylene the company used before, but with a resin additive that “enables the product to degrade after the ultraviolet process has been triggered.” Interior lighting or sunlight through windows, however, does not contain the ultraviolet rays needed to start the breaking-down process.


The resin does not impact the strength of the bag, Hoffmann claims, thus the company has been able to produce “a good quality-strength trash bag” that has the biodegradable qualities those concerned about the environment are looking for.

In direct sunlight, Poly-Tech researchers say that the bags will be “completely degraded in less than three months.” They added that the time needed for breaking down varies according to season and geographic location. For example, the degradation process takes longer in winter and under cloudy conditions, and goes faster in the Southwestern states than in the Midwest.

Gary Kerlagon, Poly-Tech senior vice president of marketing, said there will be a small increase in the price of Ruffies bags. The most popular sizes, 30-gallon kitchen bags and 20-gallon trash bags, will be an additional 10 a package, he said.

According to Kerlagon, California hardware stores and Target, Fedco and Builders Emporium, all of which sell Ruffies now, will begin receiving the new biodegradable bags Nov. 4. By January, the company plans to introduce the bags into California grocery chains, which have not previously carried the Ruffies brand.


Light Up Your Life

LIFELITE is an ankle-, wrist- or arm-band with small flashing lights that should make you easier to see on a nighttime hike, jog or bicycle ride. And with Halloween fast approaching, it could serve as a safety device for children who are trick or treating on Halloween.

Marketed by an Irvine company, LIFELITE is made of white reflective fabric and has five small red flashers controlled by a computer chip. It runs on a standard 9-volt alkaline battery and attaches with Velcro flaps. It weighs only a few ounces.

“It can be seen 1,000 feet at night,” said manufacturers representative Greg Hollowaty. “The flashers are made with the same technology used in aircraft landing lights and they’re made in Sweden.”

LIFELITE retails for $18.95 and is available from Performance Sales & Marketing, 15 Lupine, Irvine, Calif. 92714, or by calling (714) 559-1371.

Clean Microwave

Boyle-Midway Household Products Inc., makers of the leading oven cleaner in the country, Easy-Off, have recently hit the market with a product microwave cooks will applaud--Easy-Off Microwave Oven Cleaner.

Non-abrasive and specially developed for microwaves, the formula will remove grease from inside and outside surfaces of a microwave without scratching. Company representatives say the cleaner leaves no residue, so you only have to spray and wipe off. But they recommend not spraying the new cleaner directly on the oven control panel because it might get behind the controls and cause them to stick. Instead, spray the liquid on a sponge and wiping it across the panel. The new product also contains a fresh scent, so it deodorizes the microwave.


The new cleaner retails for about $1.60-$1.70 a can in major California drug, hardware and grocery outlets, among them Drug Emporium, Longs Drugs, Ace Hardware, Fedco, Vons, Albertsons, Alpha Beta and Stater Brothers.

Talking Pictures

A novel gift being manufactured by a Santa Monica inventor is Talking Pictures, a picture frame that can be programmed with a spoken message.

Talking Pictures retails for $29.95 at department stores and gift shops, according to L. J. Scamahorn, who began developing the product two years ago after his daughter was born. “With one set of grandparents living in Indiana and the other in Europe,” he said, “I thought it would be wonderful if we could send them a picture and a lasting message at the same time.”

So Scamahorn built a picture frame with a custom computer chip set into the frame’s easel. The owner can record a six-second personalized message, or rerecord if needed. To listen to the message, he said, you simply tilt the frame forward.

For information on retailers carrying Talking Pictures, write to Talking Pictures Inc., 4113 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90016, or call (213) 737-4419.