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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EcoAct Tanzania, is a social enterprise established to address the challenges of post consumer plastic pollution, waste management, deforestation and climate change.
Solid waste management is one of the biggest environmental problems that most African cities are struggling to manage. Tanzania generates about 3,800 tones waste every day of which 38% is plastic waste. Plenty of solid wastes can be found everywhere within the city and around homes. EcoAct uses an innovative, chemical free and less energy consuming technology to recycle and transform post consumer plastic waste into affordable and durable plastic lumbers. This is an alternative to expensive timber that ensures a cleaner and healthier environment while reducing effects of climate change and deforestation rates. It also gives better margins to their customers.
They collect waste plastics from the streets and landfills, and also allow the community to exchange their waste plastics in return for medical insurance coverage. This helps to collect enough waste plastics to manufacture plastic lumbers, and has helped to change the community’s attitude towards waste management. The business strategy is to add value to plastic at the points of generation to enable the Individuals, households and companies to sort and sell plastics in order to earn income. In this way, no plastic will find its way on to the street. The plastics will be transformed into more durable plastic lumbers and planks.
To achieve these, they have divided the area into different zones. Every zone has collection points where they engage youth and women groups to facilitate collection and delivery of plastics to the company. They use chemical free and energy conserving plastic extrusion technology called "Waxy Technology" to recycle and transform post consumer waste plastics into durable and environmentally friendly plastic lumbers. Plastic lumbers are affordable alternative to timbers, this reduces the need for building material manufactured from wood, helping to preserve forests, cut down on deforestation rates and mitigation of climate change. Plastic lumber made from recycled waste plastics are ideal product for building, construction, fencing and furniture making.
They have also initiated the social project called Green Learning project, where they provide desks made of the recycled material, as approximately 95 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to classroom desks which impacts on their handwriting, performance and concentration. In some cases children receive their lessons under trees or in classrooms without desks, requiring them to balance their work on the floor, their laps or on their chairs. Green Learning is an unique Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment Project.
Christian is the founder and director of EcoAct since its inception in 2015.Previously he worked as Project coordinator at Mbezi Recycling (1 year) and was Project Management Officer at FERT (4 years). He has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing from Portsmouth University.