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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B-Products aims to provide a cost-effective alternative to plastic food packaging with a biodegradable material made from food waste. It will use food waste from agriculture and retail to make PLA (polylactic acid) pellets for manufacturing. Founder John Sloan won a place on ECCI’s Greenhouse programme for early stage start-ups.
As consumers, we have become over-dependent on products that are manufactured from petroleum. This has placed more responsibility on companies to find more innovative solutions to these growing environmental challenges.
Bioplastics are a sustainable and renewable alternative to the use of plastic products. B-Products mission is to develop a new cost-effective bioplastic that can be used in food retail packaging. They aim to do this by using organic feedstocks that currently end up as landfill waste and have increasingly become a major contributor to climate change.
They are now working with funding from the Edinburgh Centre for carbon innovation. Their current project is investigating how recycled organic materials might be used to produce PLA (polylactic acid).