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 solutions to plastic pollution, food waste and sustainable fashion from our expert community.
All Questions (30)
Studio Make Believe
PostedAug 01, 2019
Hi. I am looking for an UK & European manufacturers of sustainable coffee cups and materials they are made from (BPA free). Reusable cups for home, picnic and travel use. It would be great if any of you can share... Show More
Hi. I am looking for an UK & European manufacturers of sustainable coffee cups and materials they are made from (BPA free). Reusable cups for home, picnic and travel use. It would be great if any of you can share information about it. I would really appreciate. Many thanks in advance!!!
Hi, at bowtie coffee here in New Zealand they have a East German manufacturer who makes coffee cups and coffee sources out of bio-based material and coffee grounds. There damned expensive to bring to New Zealand but the principle is great. Regards Owen
Vrije University - Institute for Environmental Studies
PostedAug 01, 2019
Hi Ubuntoo community, My name is Hanna Dijkstra, I’m a PhD researcher in Amsterdam studying sustainable plastic initiatives by the private sector; what sorts of business models are out there, how they emerge, the... Show More
Hi Ubuntoo community,
My name is Hanna Dijkstra, I’m a PhD researcher in Amsterdam studying sustainable plastic initiatives by the private sector; what sorts of business models are out there, how they emerge, the challenges they face and potentially, what the future could look like.
For my research, I will interview a large and diverse number of entrepreneurs and company representatives to learn about drivers and barriers for sustainable transitions. I will develop not only case-specific insights, but also map larger trends and obstacles that can be useful for policy makers or businesses themselves.
To do this, I need case studies!
Many of the solutions and initiatives on Ubuntoo would make perfect examples for my work, and I’m searching for people to participate in a 30-45 minute Skype interview
I work at the Vrije Universitiet in Amsterdam within the Institute for Environmental Studies, where my goal is to publish academic articles and policy briefs to improve sustainable plastic. I have developed a semi-structured interview guide that covers sustainable business models, drivers and motivations, and delves into the relationships that companies have with different groups of actors (such as governments, other businesses, NGOs etc). I hope to understand which sorts of relationships and motivations are most critical, and communicate this to the research and policy community.
So if someone on Ubuntoo has time to spare, and wants to contribute to my research, please get in touch at email@example.com
Looking forward to many productive conversations!
Hi Hannah. I just finished reading your paper that came out in Journal of Cleaner production. Not sure if you are in need of case studies anymore, but I would love to connect regardless. -Nicole, Net Your Problem
Sustainable Business Consultant
Sustainable Business Design
PostedJul 22, 2019
Does anyone know of a better alternative to Foamex board that is sustainable, waterproof and can be printed on? The standard product is typically PVC and widely used in the signage industry for temporary displays. Or... Show More
Does anyone know of a better alternative to Foamex board that is sustainable, waterproof and can be printed on? The standard product is typically PVC and widely used in the signage industry for temporary displays. Or does anyone know how it can be recycled? This is a huge single-use plastic problem waiting to be solved.
Hi there, we are a household brand from germany, and we’d like to substitude the plastic parts of our products with recycled ocean plastics, bit-by-bit (HDPE or PP). Our main suppliers are located in China, but it is... Show More
we are a household brand from germany, and we’d like to substitude the plastic parts of our products with recycled ocean plastics, bit-by-bit (HDPE or PP). Our main suppliers are located in China, but it is very hard to actually find a proper partner in China, because from our experience, a lot of them don’t understand the need of providing environmental friendly solutions. We know, that there are proper companies in Ociania, like Malaysia, but we haven’t been able to reach out to them so far, because it’s really hard to spot them.
Is anybody here, who could recommend us some ressources, companies, agents or platforms, that can help us finding what we need? It could either be a ocean plastics recycler or even a plastics producer, that uses recycled ocean plastic waste - preferably from Asia / Ociania.
Big thanks in advance and best regards,
Marko; The “Ocean Cleanup” https://theoceancleanup.com/ people are mounting a collection activity on the rivers of southeast asia, before this plastic waste reaches the ocean, and they are now collecting while searching for a provider to process this waste into a feedstock. Perhaps you could contact them for resources?
Hi there, I’m looking for bio alternatives to silicone or TPE and not coming up with much! I need something with the equivalent shore hardness of between Shore00 40-70 or Shore A 0-40 which can be injection moulded.... Show More
I’m looking for bio alternatives to silicone or TPE and not coming up with much!
I need something with the equivalent shore hardness of between Shore00 40-70 or Shore A 0-40 which can be injection moulded.
Does anyone have a suggestion?
I went through HEPXOL, and below is what is mentioned
Biobased plastics: a plastic where at least a part of the content comes from renewable biological or agricultural materials
Biodegradable & biobased plastic : a plastic that is designed to degrade under compost conditions. Containing renewable content
Biodegradable plastics : a plastic that is designed to degrade under compost conditions. Based on fossil resources
Dryflex Green TPE compounds are biobased
They don’t mentioned about how their product degrades. I’m guessing this has to be composted, just like other materials? Secondly, will this work in mix-material dump in the trash - just like the current scenario?
Hi! I am Xenia and live on the Greek island of Corfu. Like most Greek islands a lot of waste ends up in landfills. How could we go from a linear and broken waste system to one of reducing, reusing and recycling? Some... Show More
Hi! I am Xenia and live on the Greek island of Corfu.
Like most Greek islands a lot of waste ends up in landfills. How could we go from a linear and broken waste system to one of reducing, reusing and recycling?
Some important details:
Most zero waste islands I know are small and have very little tourism.
Corfu has 100.000 people living on the island all year
Between April to October 2017 there came 1.200.000 tourists
Xenia I’m so sorry for the delay in replying. I have been traveling a lot and am buried in emails. I will be traveling again next week but after the 17 could we arrange a time to talk to see if we have some interests in common? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you could send me a message on there, we can work on the scheduling. Thank you. Nicole.