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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Ecopost is a social enterprise that aims to address the challenges of urban waste management, chronic youth unemployment, deforestation and climate change.
The company notes that Africa generates over 70 million metric tonnes of municipal solid waste of which approx 20% is plastic, and this is set to double by the year 2025 owing to rapid urbanization and industrialization.
Ecopost recycles waste plastic to manufacture eco-friendly plastic lumber that can be used in numerous industries, ranging from fencing to road signage to outdoor furniture. This lumber is already colored, eliminating the need for use of potentially toxic paints. It is also better treated than timber, so there is no leaching of chemicals into underground water.
The company collects plastic waste mainly from slum areas where formal waste collection services are minimal or non-existent. Ecopost also helps minimize clogging of sewers and resulting flooding due to polythene bags. It claims to have already recycled three million kgs of plastics, and plans to recycle 20.9 million kgs over the next 10 years.
Also, since it is used for fencing, plastic lumber helps minimize the cutting down of trees. Ecopost claims to have saved more than 2,400 tonnes of timber and 950 acres of forest, while it will be saving more than 8,000 tonnes of timber and 5,700 acres of forest over the next 10 years. Ecopost employs local labor and has created more than 40 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs, while over the next five years, it hopes to create at least 150 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs.
Ecopost products can be ordered from the official website, after filling an inquiry forming and requesting for a quote.
Lorna Rutto holds a B.Comm degree in Accounting from Africa Nazarene University and various certificates in Entrepreneurship. She is in charge of sales, marketing, PR and investor relations. She previously worked at Stanbic Bank as an intern and at Imperial Bank for 2 years. Rutto has won numerous awards including the 2013 Transform Kenya Awards, 2012 USA Unreasonable Institute Fellowship, 2012 Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, 2011 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards amongst others.
Founder & COO
Charles Kalama holds a 1st Class Honours, Master of Engineering degree in Biochemical Engineering with Bioprocess Management from University College London, UK. He has a strong technical background and is in charge of (and authorises the) design, purchase, installation and commissioning of new plant and equipment in addition to coordination the repair and maintenance function. He is a winner of the 2012 Austrian Energy Globe Award, 2012 Common Pitch South Africa, 2010 IChemE Innovator of the Year Award, a 2011 Acumen East Africa Fellowship program.