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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Developing a technology to make bioplastics from fruit waste
Fruit waste can be used and upcycled to make bioplastics. This is what Veronika Batori from the University of Boras in Sweden is working on by exploring the possibilities.
Researchers worldwide have been trying to find a way to replace plastics by environmentally friendly biodegradable alternatives. Using food waste is a promising option to reach that goal.
Veronika works as a doctoral student in the field of Resource Recovery where she focuses on developing innovations in biotechnology. She has used waste from oranges and apples for making bioplastic and used two methods for this. As explained in the Guardian Tribune:
She first turned the fruit waste into a liquid which can be dried into a thin film. The film can be used for packaging foods or rubbish bags can be created by using the film which acts as an alternative for traditional plastic.
The Second method for the bioplastic production involves use of 3D-printing technology. 3D printing can be used to create products from fruit waste. The researcher states that the processes for production of bioplastic are quite simple. The waste product from apples and oranges behave in a slightly different manner, but they can be combined.
Many challenges need to be faced in the process of successfully making bioplastic materials. For example, the film is soluble in water which makes it difficult to create eco-friendly disposable mugs or cups.
Veronika would love to find a company which will help her to develop products and is hopeful that her methods could be used to make products which will available in market within the next ten years.
Bioplastic from fruit waste
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Boras, Sweden, Europe
Stage of Development
Research TRL 1
Value Chain Impact
Funding, Partnerships, Expertise
Doctoral student at University of Boras
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