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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Teysha Technologies Ltd is a London-based bioplastics startup and claims to have developed a breakthrough technology to develop organic-based plastic substitute. For this, the Teysha team have developed a unique IP, in partnership with the world’s leading research scientists, and partnered with a UK process and commercialisation specialists.
In 2010 scientists from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the University of Georgia in Athens estimated that 8 m tonnes of plastic currently ends up in the oceans each year.
Teysha’s natural product poly carbonate platform creates a wide range of polymers with tunable properties and practical applications to meet the growing demand for sustainable plastics. The platform invention provides the design of synthetic strategies for the development of polymer materials that originate from renewable resources, exhibit novel combinations of strength and toughness, as well as undergo hydrolytic breakdown to biologically beneficial by-products.
They take monomers and co-monomers from bio-based feedstock, such as starches and agricultural waste, to produce biopolymers that can be used in a large variety of applications. According to Matthew Stone, commercialisation director of Teysha Technologies, they can "adjust the strength, toughness, durability and longevity of their polymers to suit different applications". The company claims that its AggiePol® technology stands alone as a renewable, biodegradable plastic substitute that is tunable to multiple short and long-term applications at a competitive price point. The company also claims that it is fully biodegradable and made from feedstock derived from plant waste and not traditional petrochemicals, which removes the environmental impact to the earth, rivers and oceans.
The technology can be applied to a wide variety of final products, from medical implants and vehicle molding to food packaging and even cladding for building construction.
Teysha claims that its technology can produce bio-polycarbonate materials that are rigid or flexible, or that offer different thermal properties. The process uses polyhydroxyl natural products as monomeric building blocks and carbonates as the linkages to produce poly carbonates.
Teysha mentions that its materials are fully compatible with existing production methods and that they “slots easily” into current manufacturing facilities.