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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Of Italian origin, Garbo is an industrial company active since 1997 and operates mainly in the sector of recovery of abrasives and suspending based on polyethylene glycol deriving from the cutting of silicon wafers used in the production of semiconductors and photovoltaic modules. Since 2006 Garbo has increased the development of other highly innovative technologies for the regeneration of materials, landing to ChemPET project.
Despite its properties, most of the PET in circulation is still difficult to recycle due to a number of technological barriers. Only 10% of the PET placed on the market (recycling bottles) is recycled, while the remaining 90% is disposed of in landfill or incinerated simply because, with a mechanical process, it is not possible to obtain a secondary raw material with a value that justifies the recovery treatment.
Garbo S.r.l., in collaboration with the University of Modena and Bologna, has developed an innovative “chemical recycling” process, called ChemPET, capable of handling almost all the currently non-recoverable PET based waste. Through a chemical reaction, the PET, present in the pre- and post-consumer waste, is reacted selectively with ethylene glycol and transformed into an intermediate product called BHET (bis-hydroxy-ethylene-terephthalate) which, if adequately purified, can be used again for the production of PET in place of raw materials of fossil origin.
Materials PET based that can be recovered with the ChemPET process are:
multi-layer thermoforming scrap and trays (PET/PE/EVOH/PE);
Multi-layer film (e.g. PET/PE/Alu/PE)
Opaque rigid container
PET Fines and dust
black PET trays
PET/PP strapping waste
Nonwoven fabric waste
Garbo's glycolysis process produces a pure and competitive PET monomer, which can be used in the production of PET instead of fossil-based raw materials (PTA and EG). A pre-industrial production line is being started and validated (three tonnes per day, or 1,000 tonnes per year). Polycondensation tests are planned in the short term with a percentage of recycled monomer up to 100%.
The company owns a site in Cerano, in the Milan region, where industrial equipment could be envisaged in 2019, with a processing capacity of up to 200 tons / day on two lines. Garbo also plans to install another recycling line in France or Benelux, as well as in other parts of the world if supplies can be guaranteed. The economic model is based on recovering waste with no value or negative price recovery.