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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AP Chemi is an Indian company that supplies technology, machinery and services to convert unrecyclable plastic and tire waste into fuel oils.
The company’s plants use pyrolysis technology, which uses heats to chemically convert unrecyclable plastics and MLP. Under high temperatures of up to 450 degrees Celsius, polymer molecules in plastics get stretched and break into smaller molecules.
The waste is converted into vapour in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen. The vapor is put through a fractional condensation to get wax, oil and gas.
The wax is heated or refined into base oils for manufacturing grease. The oil can be used directly as fuel for industrial burners, refined into petroleum products like gasoline, or used in slow-speed generators. Sludge produced from the oil is used as a raw material for incineration.
Heat from exhaust gases is recovered, after which the gas is cleaned through scrubbing and let out in emissions.
The company’s pyrolysis reactor can process solids, semisolids, waxes, and liquids. It can also process biomass and waste oils. It has developed a patent-pending technology to process multi-layered packaging and plastic waste segregated from municipal waste.
The company supplies the technology and plants to clients across the world. It has set up plants in India, Kenya, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.
It licenses its patented technologies and provides turnkey solutions to set up the machinery. It provides maintenance services including on-site engineering support and remote monitoring.
The company provides consultancy to companies on extended producer responsibility (EPR) and on pyrolysis processes. It conducts pilot trials and pre-feasibility studies.
It also runs its own facility to conduct research and machinery design. It has set up 15 plants in India and Kenya with an average capacity to recycle 12 tons of plastic per day.
The company’s plants have ISO 2001:2015 certified by TUV SUD. The company is in process of obtaining CE, ATEX & ASME certification.
Suhas Dixit studied at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai. He is also the director of Greenjoules, which produces Euro 6 grade diesel from biomass using Agile Process Chemicals's technology.