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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Aarohana is a social enterprise that combines waste management with promoting livelihoods for tribal societies. They upcycle waste plastic into beautiful handcrafted fabric, using traditional "charkhas" or hand operated machines. This process is a manual one that does not require any electricity or energy. They work with different foundations to collect segregated and clean packaging waste like LDPE and MLP. Finally, the fabric is used to make consumer products such as handbags, accessories, home decor and office utilities.
Their project is based in a tribal area of India, providing livelihood to tribal women and youth. Aarohana is currently expanding to work with another group of tribal women. As of now, they have 20 artisans on board and can utilise one ton of packaging waste for upto 6 months.
They work on three areas:
Conservation: They approach the conservation of the environment and heritage using social involvement and traditional technology
Livelihoods: They generate livelihood opportunities for the grassroots while integrating social and environmental sustainability
Participation: They engage consumers and associates in this EcoSocial development process, to create a responsible economy.
Their Online Store features a variety of bags, totes, laptop cases, and other products made from the fabrics created from waste plastic.
Amita has worked extensively in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility since the past 8 years. An IT Engineer by basic education, she went on to do her Masters at Purdue University, the USA with a focus on Sustainability. Since then, she has worked with CSR teams of multinational corporations, consultancies, non-profits, and community-based organizations in the United States and India and eventually founded Aarohana EcoSocial Developments with the rich experience she gathered.
Founder & Director
Nandan has over a decade of experience working in Business Development and Procurement sectors of reputed companies like Tata Telecom, Sony, Future Group and Sify. With profuse experience in managing projects, large teams and market relations, he has co-founded Aarohana with long-time friend, Amita.