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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Following nature’s original circular economy: reuse, recycle and biodegrade, without generating any waste, Azolla's unique industrial biomanufacturing platform replicates the photosynthesis process that converts CO2 & light into biofiber. This sustainable technology produces carbon negative textile fiber that could potentially be used for multiple applications though they are currently focusing on textiles and footwear.
The fashion industry causes harm to the environment. Every year, 27 trillion gallons of water are used and around 150 million trees are cut down to make fabric. The textile manufacturing emits 800 billion tons of CO2 every year.
Azolla claims to use industrial photosynthesis as well as genetic engineering, replicating how plants convert CO2 and light into a biomaterial they call EKKO. The startup is using proprietary bacterium that only feeds on CO2 using sunlight, and nothing else. The fiber is essentially bacterial nanocellulose made without the use of chemicals, making it 100% biodegradable (since it is nanocellulose, it biodegrades same way as natural cotton, linen or bamboo).
EKKO is currently at lab stage and the materials are not currently available. Azolla's vision is to engineer the material at molecular level. EKKO is also genetically engineered to target specific attributes like strength, elasticity, conductivity, transparency and durability, making its use more diverse. Initially, the team is planning on replacing current textile, like cotton and polyester to enter the market. The long term vision is to engineer the material at molecular level to make the textile fiber transformative - fabrics that generate power through motion, clothes that can report on your health and textiles that can react to changing environment.