The term "biodegradable" has been used over the past few years, to describe plastics or packaging that could potentially be metabolized by microorganisms in nature, with complete breakdown to CO2/Methane, water and biomass. However, there is significant confusion and controversy surrounding biodegradable plastics since many suppliers have used the term to loosely describe their material/packaging without specifying the conditions under which the material would degrade in nature. For instance, some plastics (like PLA) will only degrade under industrial composting conditions, while some others (like PHA) can break down under a wider range of conditions and environments (industrial, backyard, marine). Given this widespread confusion and the misuse of the "biodegradable" term, many global government and industry organizations have issued guidelines to restrict or eliminate the unqualified use of biodegradable as a descriptor of plastics or packaging. These include the European Commission guidelines (European Plastics Strategy) and the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides in the US.
In line with such guidelines, Ubuntoo's recommends that companies providing biodegradable materials, products or packaging:
1.Avoid unqualified use of the term "biodegradable" to describe their products
2.Any claim of biodegradability should be accompanied by a description of specific conditions and environments under which the material or product will undergo degradation in nature
3.It is strongly recommended that companies provide globally accepted certifications or testing for various biodegradability claims (such as the BPA certification for industrial composting)
Further in line with the position articulated by the European Commission as well as major CPG companies, Ubuntoo recommends that "biodegradable" plastics should not be considered a solution for littering (or worse a license to litter). Appropriate collection and end-of-life solutions (such as industrial composting or home composting) need to be put into place to avoid biodegradable plastics ending up as litter in the environment.
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Get answers to your questions on sustainability from our worldwide community of experts and innovators
All Questions (66)
PostedMar 01, 2019
United by Blue and Sole have collaborated to create what they are calling the most eco-friendly shoe in the world. It boasts recycled cork soles, fibers made from discarded buffalo fibers, and in soles made from algae...read more→
United by Blue and Sole have collaborated to create what they are calling the most eco-friendly shoe in the world.
It boasts recycled cork soles, fibers made from discarded buffalo fibers, and in soles made from algae pollution. I don’t think I have ever heard of a more responsibly made shoe!
What do you think? Will you be picking up a pair of these? Do you think their efforts were worth while? And the over arching question, are innovations like this the answer to solving our world’s most pressing environmental issues?
Here are the shoes we’re discussing
RepliedOct 10, 2019
I like the idea behind these shoes a lot and how everything that is used in them is either recycled or organic. They look nice and comfortable. Might have to check out a pair of my own.
PostedMar 01, 2019
Recently there has been a flurry of articles, outlining to what extend recycling in the US is broken, as a result of China’s ban in plastic waste imports. Examples: NYTimes:...read more→
Recently there has been a flurry of articles, outlining to what extend recycling in the US is broken, as a result of China’s ban in plastic waste imports.
NYTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/16/business/local-recycling-costs.html 3
The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/03/china-has-stopped-accepting-our-trash/584131/ 1
The problem with these articles is that they do not outline any SOLUTIONS at all and only paint a picture of doom. This has left a lot of people in the waste industry frustrated.
In this thread, we’d like to capture comments, suggestions and articles on SOLUTIONS. Please contribute, even if you do not work in the US. showless
RepliedNov 01, 2019
Personal anecdote related to this subject: I’ve just put in a couple of hours of web search and phone calls to understand specifically what to put and not to put into my blue recycling waste bin in Fulton County. After glass bottles and beverage aluminum cans it gets quite ambiguous and confusing very quickly. Maybe it’s just me. But if I’m like the average person, and Fulton is like the average county, there appears to be a large upside opportunity in providing homes with much clearer instructions. Which would lead to a more valuable and less contaminated mix of blue bin contents. Which could bring by significant productivity gains along the recycling value chain, I suppose.
PostedFeb 28, 2019
I have looked at this topic from an academic and research perspective. However, creating a close loop were these materials end up in a composting facility or in an anaerobic digester is a whole different ball game....read more→
I have looked at this topic from an academic and research perspective. However, creating a close loop were these materials end up in a composting facility or in an anaerobic digester is a whole different ball game. Making compostable packaging is just one piece of the puzzle. Handling food waste is one area were biodegradable plastics can support organics waste streams. I would like hear different perspectives to better understand what would be the roadblocks, risks and challenges of using biodegradable packaging. showless
RepliedOct 10, 2019
To add onto the biodegradable packaging, a supermarket in Thailand started using banana leaves for their packaging. In this way, grocery shopping becomes much less dependent on plastics between packaging and transportation of the goods. Maybe a transition into natural items would be a beneficial idea to run with as far as packaging of food and other items.
PostedFeb 27, 2019
I was involved in looking for bio-renewable chemicals for certain applications. One of the challenges was that renewable feedstocks were many times being developed for fuels markets in the US because they are...read more→
I was involved in looking for bio-renewable chemicals for certain applications. One of the challenges was that renewable feedstocks were many times being developed for fuels markets in the US because they are subsidized by the renewable fuels standard (RFS). Is there any work in progress at the federal level that is looking at similar support for renewable chemicals and their feedstocks? showless
Circular Business Development
RepliedApr 05, 2019
I know in Europe they are opting on a so call Subisidy for Materials (SDM) instead of Subsidy for Energy (SDE). But this is the big dillema! What has our highest priority? Resource for Energy use or Material/Chemical use?!
Global Energy and Sustainability Director
ISS Facilities Services
PostedFeb 26, 2019
I am working with a cafe services company that wants to find a better option for disposable gloves. Currently using nitrile gloves all around the United States, and because of the food waste they mostly end up in the...read more→
I am working with a cafe services company that wants to find a better option for disposable gloves. Currently using nitrile gloves all around the United States, and because of the food waste they mostly end up in the landfill. I am aware of Terracycle’s program, and I just learned that Kimberly Clark has a RightCycle. Does anyone know of compostable options? or reusable alternatives. Or a material that is a better option? showless
Karan Pandey (WTG)
RepliedJun 25, 2020
I'd request you to change the way you use. Buy 2 pairs of washable gloves for every person using it. Workers should use one pair of it on work and on the other day the used one should be washed and non used ones can be used. This will surely save a lot money and millions of pairs of glove waste. Hope this helps!! ✌️
Studio Make Believe
PostedJun 01, 2018
Hello, Does anyone know European manufacturers able to mould a coffee cup in a sustainable material (not an existing coffee cup product)? Any sustainable material or fully reciclable now a days is an option, food...read more→
Hello, Does anyone know European manufacturers able to mould a coffee cup in a sustainable material (not an existing coffee cup product)? Any sustainable material or fully reciclable now a days is an option, food grade stainless steel, rice husks, bamboo fibre, bleached paperboard, etc. The only restriction is that the material must to be BPA free. showless
RepliedSep 01, 2019
Hi Anthony, here are some options in Europe (UK included