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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The Colombian startup works by offering the opportunity for people to exchange recyclable materials for top ups on their public transport travel cards. Users of the service are incentivized because of the opportunity to save money on their travel. As Medellín-based cofounders, Miguel Uribe and Luis Felip Restrepo explain, “A person who earns a minimum wage spends at least 15 percent of their income on transport.” The idea is that Ciclo drop-off points will be placed in various locations and stations across Medellin. The machine also includes a screen that allow for educational messages or entertaining content - thus making it an interesting and targeted media channel.
Ciclo piloted this approach for the first time in September 2017 in Medellin, Colombia, and has since expanded their footprint. They have since recycled more than 40 tons of waste. More than 10,000 users have used the system. Ciclo estimates that about 2.5 million bottles are being wasted just in Medellin only, on a daily basis. Hence, the company has plans to expand to other cities in Colombia and across Latin America in the years to come.