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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Excess Materials Exchange is a digital facilitated marketplace developed to allow companies to exchange any excess materials and products. EME function like a dating site: they actively match supply and demand and materials with their highest-value reuse opportunity.
The platform uses blockchain and AI technology for optimal supply-demand matching through four simple tools:
The Resources Passport helps saving material, component and product data in a structured manner by giving materials an identity.
Tracking & Tracing: with tracking and tracing identifiers like bar & QR codes and chips, EME effectively couple materials to the resources passports and follow them through their life cycles.
Valuation: the matched materials are assigned a financial value along with environmental and societal impacts.
Matchmaking Platform: matchmaking of material streams are facilitated to find the highest-value reuse of materials and products.
Using the platform allows businesses to not only exchange excess materials but also acquire secondary materials to use in production. The platform allows companies to reduce the time taken to source secondary materials by nearly 85%.
The cost of waste processing for companies is generally nearly 5% of the total revenue. Selling this waste using the platform can reduce this cost by almost 150%.
The platform also calculates the environmental and societal impacts of excess materials, allowing companies to achieve their sustainability goals at a faster rate.
All of this adds extreme versatility and concordance within the plastic recycling ecosystem. A very technologically driven approach imparts robustness and bridge gaps for plastic waste to flow through recycling value chains. In the grand scheme, it will accelerate positive revenue and growth for the recycling economy to flourish.
The pilot project of Excess Materials Exchange produced the following statistics:
CO2 emission reduction equivalent to 845,000 car rides from Amsterdam to Copenhagen.
63,850,000 Euro of financial value was generated from exchanging the pilot materials.
The estimated fresh water reduction could fill 1430 olympic pools.
So far, the platform has helped exchange:
Tulip flower heads to convert them to pigments,
Water vitens sold as organic salts to companies,
Fruit waste turned into leather to be used in shoes, bags and other items,
IT hardware to use the spare parts.
The platform has won multiple awards including Accenture Innovation Awards and Innovations Under 35. EME's plan is to open its platform to the rest of Europe, given that at the moment it only operates in The Netherlands.
Maayke founded Excess Material Exchange (EME) in 2016. This initiative has made her into one of the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018 from MIT Technology Review. She was also chosen as part of the DJ100, which feature the 100 most sustainable young leaders in The Netherlands. Maayke joined the Ashoka CircularFutures in 2018 and is member of several organizations. She won the Rachel Carson Environmental Thesis Award in 2013.
Christian van Maaren
Christian holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Technische Universiteit Delft. He was a participant in the Global Himalayan Expedition 2016, the International Antarctic Expedition 2012 and has spoken at TEDxAntarcticPeninsula in 2012.