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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India-based startup Bambrew has developed 100% natural and reusable drinking straws using bamboo.
About 78 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste is produced annually. Of this, nearly 32% flows into our oceans. Single-use plastic straws are one of the top threats our oceans face.
In an effort to replace the plastic with a more sustainable product, Bambrew has developed reusable and natural bamboo drinking straws. With its durability and ability to grow faster than any hardwood tree, bamboo makes the ideal raw material for the production of sustainable straws. Additionally, bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees.
Bamboo has 137 different species, of which only three to four varieties can be used to produce the straws. Bambrew acquires the raw bamboo material from plantations in North East India. The plantations are owned by the native tribes and are a source of income for the people. Bambrew hands over the production to the locals, providing employment and uplifting communities in the process.
Bambrew sources the machinery from local vendors and the equipment is then repurposed to make the straws. A simple drilling machine once repurposed can be used as a drilling brush to clean the straws. Small groups of people have been trained to use this equipment efficiently for the production.
While the straws made purely from bamboo stalks are reusable, a new variety of single-use Bambrew straws are made from bamboo fibres and waste. Both kinds are handmade, 100% natural and biodegradable. The technology used to produce straws from bamboo fibres is now patent pending.
Currently, Bambrew works with 200 bamboo artisans and aims to raise this number to 1000, providing employment and value to their skills.
Bambrew has acquired a number of clients including Zomato, The Lalit Hotels and Byg Brewsky among others. They are currently shipping to India, USA, UK, Canada and France.
Bambrew have secured 2nd position in India atthe 2019 Entrepreneurship World Cup held by the MISK Foundation (Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Initiative) and are soon going to represent India in Riyadh.
The products can be ordered through their official website for individuals, while for companies and eateries, monthly subscription packs based on requirements are available.
Vaibhav is a graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology. He was previously the founder of Restroshop, a small business supplying agri-products to restaurants. He is now a co-founder of Bambrew.