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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ECONYL is a product of Aquafil, a global leader in the synthetic fibres industry and a pioneer in quality, innovation and sustainability. Through Chemical recycling, the company takes nylon waste from landfills and oceans such as fishing nets, aquaculture, fabric scraps from mills and carpets destined for landfills around the world and transforms it into regenerated nylon for fashion and interior industries. It's exactly the same as brand-new nylon and can be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again.
The process behind Econyl's breakthrough materials include the following four steps:
Rescue The ECONYL: Regeneration System starts with rescuing waste, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. That waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover all the nylon possible.
Regenerate: Through a radical regeneration and purification process, the nylon waste is recycled right back to its original purity. That means ECONYL regenerated nylon is exactly the same as virgin nylon.
Remake: ECONYL regenerated nylon is processed into carpet yarn and textile yarn for the fashion and interior industries.
Reimagine: Fashion brands and carpet producers use ECONYL regenerated nylon to create brand-new products.
Aquafil’s journey started in 2011 when CEO Giulio Bonazzi developed the process through chemical depolymerization. In 2013, it started to collaborate with Healthy Seas to recover and recycle nylon fishing nets from the ocean. In 2018, the company opened a carpet recycling facility in Phoenix, retrieving waste carpets collected under California’s stewardship law. The carpets are processed into pellets that are shipped to Slovenia for final purification. Despite the shipping cost, the company states that the process is generally cost-competitive with virgin nylon.A second carpet recycling facility has beeen built in Woodland, California, and Aquafil is planning to build a processing plant in the U.S. Considering that perhaps 5 billion pounds of carpeting go into landfills each year, this an opportunity to capture value that would otherwise literally go to waste. Interface and Tarkett are among the carpet makers using Econyl yarn.