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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Anpoly is a startup based in South Korea that produces nanocellulose and nanochitin biopolymers as ingredients for manufacturers of bioplastics.
Anpoly was founded by Hwang Dong-soo, a scientist at the Pohang University of Science and Technology, who decided to start the company to produce and sell materials instead of transferring the technology to another company.
Cellulose and chitin are the most abundant natural polymers in the world. Bioplastics made from these products are biodegradable and non-toxic.
Anpoly uses three technologies – nanocrystallisaiton, 3D bioprinting and formulation technology – to manufacture nanocellulose and nanochitin.
Nanocellulose is a lightweight material produced from cotton, wood and pulp. Anpoly’s product, trademarked POLYCELLU™, is a cellulose nanofiber hydrogel. It can be used to manufacture packaging, paper, filtration membranes and cosmetics.
Nanochitin also has wide uses, including biomedical applications, because it has a high surface area, is biocompatible and porous. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. The product, trademarked POLYCHITO™, is a chitin nanofiber hydrogel.
Anpoly's products are available to purchase from the company. Hwang continues to lead research and development into cellulose, chitin, chitosan and other materials for the company. He is studying the possibility to extract cellulose from rice chaff. The startup aims to collaborate with researchers and companies to develop more such materials for industrial applications.