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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Ahuakaterial is a project developed in the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia to produce useful materials from avocado waste.
Colombia is the world’s fourth largest producer of Avocado. But its production generates waste of nearly 230,000 tonnes which ends up as CO2 emissions from landfills. Ahuaketerial founder Gustavo Lozano developed a solution as part of his thesis project for the University’s degree program in design.
The project developed a way to convert Haas Avocado waste into five types of materials that have industrial applications. The process does not require chemicals.
The materials include:
AhuakaFlex, a solid and rough material, can be used to make lamps and cable coatings. The material is fire resistant, flexible and is able to resist deformation.
AhuakaLayer, a translucent material that can be used in resealable food packaging, leather goods like bags and waterproof mattress protectors. It has an orange color and is hydrophobic. However, it melts above 30 degrees Celsius temperature.
AhuakaCorck, which can be easily cut but decays quickly, can be used in seedbeds or covers for plastic crates. It melts at 40 degrees Celsius.
AhuakaCrack, a light, rigid material that can absorb liquids and is fire resistant. It can be used in interior decoration or in components in drones.
AhuakaBrick is a rigid and smooth material that can absorb heat and resist fires. It can also absorbs impacts by 57%. The material can be used in making flasks, pots, children’s toys, and thermal insulation panels. It has a yellow color with orange hues.
Each material has a characteristic color that gets generated in unique and unrepeatable patterns in each sample.
Ahuakaterial continues to develop more sustainable materials meant for everyday use from avocado waste. It is looking for funding and partnerships to further refine the materials, develop new materials, and eventually have a pilot production process.