In my book Ecologic I describe the concept of an ecological bogeyman. This is either something that sounds scary but isn't, or that sounds good but doesn't deliver. It's something where words fool us into thinking something is better or worse than it really is. A classic example is the way advertisers use the word 'natural', which instantly generates warm, cuddly feelings, even though in practice nature is rarely warm or cuddly.
A bogeyman that regularly looms up is the word 'biodegradable.' It sounds good and green, so it must be good for the planet, right? And the parent company of New Scientist magazine have fallen right into its trap. The Feedback section of the latest issue explains that New Scientist is wrapped in a biodegradable form of plastic. This will apparently 'degrade when subject to environmental conditions to produce water, carbon dioxide and biomass.' The biomass will probably then degrade further giving off methane.
So now, please remind me, why we want this wrapper to turn into greenhouse gasses, rather than lock them away for hundreds of years? Biodegradable plastics belong to an older generation of ecology when we were more worried about having enough holes in the ground than about climate change. Get your act together, New Scientist.