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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Ecovia Renewables Inc. was formed in 2014 as a spin-out company from the University of Michigan. Their mission is to develop and commercialize high-performing biobased ingredients and materials from sustainable processes at the best value for their partners.
They do this by having microbial ecosystems work for them. Their suite of Ecovia™ Biopolymers are created from a proprietary fermentation process. They are affordable, biobased, biodegradable, and functional alternatives to conventional acrylate and acrylamide polymers and starch-based biopolymers.
Applications range from soil additives for water retention to super-absorbent cores for infant diapers to thickeners for personal care and industrial products, among many others.
In 2018, they announced a multi-year joint-development partnership with Seppic, a subsidiary of Air Liquide Healthcare, to develop topical health and beauty ingredients.
Also in 2018, Ecovia Renewables was Awarded $500,000 Phase IIB NSF Grant to develop high-performing and eco-friendly superabsorbent biopolymers. They raised $1.6 million USD in a Seed financing round, with Seppic and the University of Michigan MINTS program being major investors.
Ecovia has been awarded “100% USDA Certified Biobased” Product Label for AzuraGel™ superabsorbent biopolymers.