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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Birch Recycling facility in Houston, Texas. The company has developed into one of the largest post-industrial recycling companies in the country.
They recycle a variety of plastic resins into high quality regrinds. They provide also toll R&D and short run compounding services, toll compounding services, plastic laboratory testing, and virgin polypropylene and polyethylene Resin.
Their regrind and reprocessed pellets include HDPE Injection, HMW Film & Pipe, HDPE Blow Mold, LDPE, ABS, and polypropylene for the recycling: they don't broker or trade low end contaminated recycled plastic. They have a strict quality control procedure:
It all starts with a consistent single stream post-industrial sourcing. Then each box is probed looking for foreign materials, paper, and foaming agent.
A team member will take a probed sample from the top, middle, and bottom section of each box. The lab technicians then test the regrind in their certified melt index equipment to confirm the melt flow is accurate and to look for changing conditions in the resin that might surface once it has been melted.
After passing the first two parts of their quality control procedures the material is moved to the metal removing equipment. At this point the regrind is dumped through a magnet system for screening.
For the final stage of the process: the regrind is vacuumed into a Kice Aspiration System where the fines and paper are removed and then the regrind is packaged in a quality Gaylord box with a liner and a lid. The box is then weighed on a certified scale.
For the LDPE, the melt flow index is 1-2 Melt ASTM D1238 and the density is .920 ASTM D1505. The company also supply rLDPE but only with Grey pellets.
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Houston, Texas, USA
Stage of Development
In Market TRL 9
Value Chain Impact
Materials, Upcycle, Recycle
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