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 (32)
PostedMar 02, 2019
It is more environmentally friendly (less resources, energy) to create a plastic bag versus a paper bag. However, we really only have infrastructure in place to capture and recycle paper bags. What then is the proper... Show More
It is more environmentally friendly (less resources, energy) to create a plastic bag versus a paper bag. However, we really only have infrastructure in place to capture and recycle paper bags. What then is the proper bag to use?
I just came across the following article: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-innovative-ecobottle-is-the-first-compostable-paper-bottle-destined-to-eliminate-the-worlds-plastic-problem-300810832.html Do you... Show More
I just came across the following article:
Do you really think this can be competitive with mainstream plastic bottles? Too good to be true? Let me know your thoughts.
Reusable packaging models are also in existence in the US too. Check out Limeloop and Terracycle’s Loop program. Remains to be seen whether this will scale long-term but it is encouraging to see this taking place now
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... Show 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
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:... Show 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.
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.
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.... Show 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.
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.
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... Show 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?
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?!