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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The Alliance to End Plastic Waste includes global companies from the plastics, chemicals and CPG value chain coming together to promote solutions to end plastic waste in the environment.
The 29 member companies have committed over US$1 billion, with the goal of investing $1.5 billion over the next five years, to help end plastic waste in the environment. The Alliance — whose membership represents companies located throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East — will develop and bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics by helping to enable a circular economy.
It is a not-for-profit organization that includes companies that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics — including chemical and plastic manufacturers, CPG companies, retailers, converters and waste-management companies — aka the plastics value chain. They have been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner.
They announced an initial set of projects and collaborations that reflect a range of solutions to help end plastic waste:
Partnering with cities to design integrated waste-management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially those along rivers, which transport vast amounts of unmanaged plastic waste from land to the ocean.
Funding the Incubator Network by Circulate Capitalto develop and promote technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling.
Developing an open source, science-based global information project to support waste-management projects globally with reliable data collection, metrics, standards, and methodologies to help governments, companies, and investors focus on and accelerate actions to stop plastic waste from entering the environment.
Creating a capacity-building collaboration with intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations to conduct joint workshops and trainings for government officials and community-based leaders to help them identify and pursue the most effective and locally-relevant solutions in the highest priority areas.
Supporting Renew Oceans to aid localized investment and engagement. The program is designed to capture plastic waste before it reaches the ocean from the ten major rivers shown to carry the vast majority of land-based waste to the ocean. The initial work will support the Renew Ganga project, which has also received support from the National Geographic Society.
In the months ahead, the Alliance will make additional investments and drive progress in four key areas:
Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling
Innovation to advance and scale new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from all post-use plastics
Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action
Cleanup of concentrated areas of plastic waste, particularly rivers, which carry land-based plastic waste to oceans and beaches.
The following companies are the founding members of the Alliance: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips, Clariant, Covestro, The Dow Chemical Company, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia and Versalis (Eni Group).