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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AlgiKnitis a biomaterials company integrating science and design into textile production.
Addressing the overabundance of everlasting plastics, AlgiKnit is creating durable yet rapidly degradable yarns. They envision the next generation of sustainable, wearable and ethical materials, produced within a closed-loop life cycle.
AlgiKnit aims to operate in a closed loop product lifecyle, utilizing material with a significant lower environmental footprint than conventional textiles, to bring sustainable bio-based textile alternatives to the footwear and apparel industries.
Algiknit creates materials derived from kelp, stating that it is the ideal material for the future of sustainable packaging:
- Rapidly renewable: Kelp is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth - up to 10 times faster than bamboo. When it comes to rapidly renewable resources, Laminaria digitata is as good as it gets.
- Farmed worldwide: Kelp is grown in aquatic farms around the world in coastal communities, often by fisher-men and women, providing income during the fishing off-season.
- Improves environments: Kelp in coastal waters absorbs nutrients from agricultural and sewer run-off that can alter coastal environments. This recaptures nutrients for the next generation of biomaterials.
AlgiKnit grew out of BioEsters, the winning team from the 2016 BioDesign Challenge, and continues to pursue a material driven design approach to biopolymer based materials.