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 on the idea of using technology to enable a circular economy and create a cleaner and better world, Empower was founded in January 2018. They are building a global plastic waste ecosystem and are present in more than 10 countries throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.
To solve the problem of plastic waste, Empower is built on the same philosophy as the Norwegian bottle deposit system (which ensures 97% of bottles being recycled). By rewarding deposit of plastic waste, they can stop leakage of plastic into the environment, and incentivize the collection of leaked waste.
Their mission is that people can pick up plastic waste anywhere in the world, deliver it at a collection point and immediately receive a reward. The use of Blockchain technology ensures full transparency. They are able to track and link every deposit of plastic back to the sponsor who made it possible!
By giving plastic a value they incentivize people to clean it up and deposit the waste instead of throwing it in nature. Empower is also tracking plastic waste through the value chain to see where the collected plastic ends up and also making it possible for producers of recycled plastic to show where the recycled materials is coming from while proving it is done in a responsible and socially good way.
They reward a digital token called EMP to incentivize people to clean up plastic. Each EMP is always worth $1 and can be used for payment directly, or sold back to Empower in exchange for local currencies. For every dollar sponsored, a minimum of 1 kg of plastic will be cleaned from the environment.
The startup is dedicated to be fully transparent in how donations are being used. A sponsor is able to see exactly when and where EMP Tokens are being rewarded for clean ups and to follow its global impact.