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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Bioplastic Recycling closes the loop by creating the materials and technology needed to transform linear supply chains into circular supply chains.
More and more Cups, lids, clamshells and cutlery contain PLA, which has a resin identification code 7 for "other plastics". It still makes up only a small percentage of the plastics market but "it is projected to grow significantly over the next 10 to 15 years", said Mateo Neri, director of business development for Bioplastic Recycling. Meanwhile, there isn’t yet a large-scale recycling market for PLA.
Using groundbreaking technology, they sort and upcycle discarded bioplastics into new products that lessen the reliance on traditional plastics. Their upcycled materials are compatible with standard plastic manufacturing equipment, allowing for rapid market adoption.
The startup opened a prototyping Laboratory in December 2017 and has now moved its operations to a larger facility while keeping it headquarters in the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator's campus (LACI).
The team is still at a R&D stage, collecting 20 to 50 tons of plastic a month, using size reduction and lab-scale extruding and pelletizing equipment. They are developing trommels and washing systems at a small scale and are working with Investors to be able to install a wash line with a capacity of cleaning 2 tons per hour. In addition to its own ongoing R&D work, Bioplastic Recycling has partenered with other companies to solve the challenges in mechanically recycling post-consumer PLA. Low heat resistance PLA makes it susceptible to thermal degradation when mechanically recycled. That has led some companies to pursue technology to depolymerize the plastic in order to recover its base building blocks.
Bioplastic Recycling is working with several companies, including with a Tawainese business producing a PLA-based bioplastic, with the goal of producing recycled film for cheaper than virgin PLA film.
To market the recycled material through new products , Brian Chung co-founded a separate company named reCircular. Their first project was to recycle PLA cups and straws from a high-end coffee Triniti and transform them into table tops.