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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Based in Mexico, Ecolana is a startup aiming to increase recycling in the country by improving access and promoting campaigns for companies through a digital platform.
The Ecolana platform provides information to citizens, and guides them to recycle efficiently. Users are informed about places with monetary rewards for recycling, along with the proper recycling methods. In essence, Ecolana acts as a connector between citizens and recycling centres in a few steps:
The Ecolana map detects the location of the user and detects the nearest collection centre.
Using the recycling guides, users drop their waste in the appropriate centre according to the waste type.
Collection centres store the waste until enough has been collected.
The waste is then sent to recycling centres where they are recycled to form new consumer products for citizen use.
Since its inception in 2018, the Ecolana platform now has over 15,000 users. Ecolana not only provides extra income for garbage collectors but also makes recycling easier with pre-sorted waste.
The startup has developed partnerships with a number of global companies to promote their recycling campaigns, like:
Mustela: for dermo-cosmetic containers,
Tetra Pak: for multilayer packaging,
Nescafe: for coffee capsules,
Grupo Modelo Mexico: for food and drink glass containers.
Ecolana was awarded the What Design Can Do Award in 2019.