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.
Thank you for your interest in Ubuntoo. We’re excited that you’re here! To continue, you’ll need an account with us.
Chrysalix Technologies, an Imperial College London spin-out company has developed a low-cost ionic liquid to separate cellulose and lignin from biomaterials like waste wood.
Chrysalix aims to produce input materials for the renewable chemical industry on a large scale to eliminate the requirement of crude oil. This will reduce carbon emissions from the chemical sector and landfill and incineration of wood. The feedstock used to produce biomaterials can be obtained from industrial, forestry and agricultural wastes as well as fast-growing plants like Miscanthus, making the products renewable in small time frames.
Currently, Chrysalix is further developing its patented BioFlex process. The process utilizes waste wood, agricultural by-products and sustainably grown biomass to produce cellulose and lignin for the renewable chemical industry.
The Bioflex process can be used for a variety of feedstocks including agricultural residues, energy crops, construction wood, and other biomass sources. A low-cost ionic liquid is used to separate different biomass components in the feedstock, mainly cellulose and lignin. The ionic liquid is recyclable, and heavy metal contaminants from industrial waste wood are recoverable.
The BioFlex process offers a number of benefits like:
Feedstock Flexibility: the process is effective for all kinds of wood material.
Compatibility: the process is compatible with organic contaminants and metals, allowing feedstock flexibility.
High Performance: the removal rate of lignin and hemicellulose is time-effective.
Mild Conditions: the process is effective at near ambient pressure and temperature (<200 Celsius) conditions.
No Emissions: the process does not emit toxic vapours as the ionic liquid has a low vapour pressure.
Circular Economy: agricultural and industrial waste is used as a raw material driving a circular economy.
The main products recovered from the Bioflex process are cellulose and lignin. Cellulose can be used in the paper industry or hydrolysed to sugar to produce for example bioplastics and biofuels. Lignin can be used for a bio-adhesive and also produce biomaterials and chemicals.
By-products like furfural and acetic acid can be isolated from the process and used for various applications in the chemical industry.
Chrysalix Technologies is currently working to scale-up the technology to enable commercial production of biomass using the BioFlex process.
Under the H2020 SUPERBIO Programme in 2018, Chrysalix was awarded a voucher for scale-up with two industrial partners.
Chrysalix Technologies was awarded the 2nd Prize at the 2018 EIB Social Innovation Tournament.