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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Conceptos Plasticos is the union of two passions: helping the environment and creating products that can benefit vulnerable populations.
With almost 600 tons of plastic waste being thrown away in a landfill each day in Bogotá, Colombia, the company uses recycled plastic to build homes for impoverished communities throughout the city, while also teaching the importance of recycling and sustainability.
The social enterprise is now helping to build classrooms in Ivory Coast in partnership with UNICEF.
Experts hope the environmentally friendly new technique will also provide more stable incomes for plastic waste collectors and contribute to reducing rates of serious illnesses in the country.
Nine model classrooms have already been set up in Ivory Coast. Conceptos Plásticos, aims to show that what has been done in Bogotá could be replicated elsewhere in West Africa.
In Bogotá, the company's factory buys its material from 15,000 collectors, who work individually or in collectives. A larger factory in now being built in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. According to UNICEF: Abidjan alone generates 300 tonnes of plastic waste a day, of which only around 5 percent is currently recycled. When the factory will be at full capacity, its 9,200 tonnes of brick will be enough to build more than 1,800 classrooms a year. UNICEF has agreed to buy enough bricks from Conceptos Plásticos for over 500 classrooms. This will also allow them to employ more people and provide better income to women collecting the plastic.