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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Eastman Chemical Company has introduced carbon renewal technology, a breakthrough innovation to recycle all kinds of plastic waste including non-polyester and mixed plastics. The technology is based on the breakdown of complex polyester into its molecular components.
Commercial recycling plants have a limited ability to recycle all kinds of plastic waste. Current mechanical methods are also unable to breakdown all types of polyester waste. With carbon renewal technology, Eastman uses advanced circular technology to breakdown complex polyester waste into its molecular components which can be used to rebuild new polyester-based polymers.
Carbon renewal technology has been developed by modifying the front end of Eastman's cellulosic production process, using plastic waste as a feedstock. Through the process, the plastic waste is partially oxidized at very high efficiency. The result of the process is the basic molecular components of the original waste which can be rebuilt to manufacture Eastman products for the ophthalmic industry, packaging textiles and durable industries.
The technology can be used for efficient recycling of mixed plastics, non-polyester plastics, flexible packaging and plastic films among other waste types.
Eastman has completed pilot tests of the technology at Kingsport and plans to commercially introduce it in the markets in 2019. The technology won the End-of-life innovation price of the 2020 Re|focus Sustainability Award.
Eastman is currently exploring possible collaborations for the collection of plastic waste on a commercial scale for its carbon renewal technology.