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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California-based startup Sierra Energy has developed a gasification technology to produce renewable energy through the conversion of waste.
The waste accumulated in landfills not only occupies a land area and causes pollution, but also emits methane during the breakdown process. Methane is a greenhouse gas nearly 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, making it a source of toxic emissions. Sierra Energy aims to produce energy through vaporization of this waste.
Sierra Energy aims to eliminate landfill waste through energy production using its advanced FastOx technology.
The technology consists of a modified blast furnace and requires heat, steam and oxygen for the process. The waste is exposed to a temperature of 4000F, through the injection of oxygen and steam. Waste is broken down to a molecular level, post-which organic components turn into syngas and inorganic components melt into a non-leaching stone and metal. The entire process requires no burning and results in zero emissions and toxic by-products.
FastOx technology provides a number of benefits:
Feedstock Flexibility: FastOx is compatible with all kinds of waste including medical, hazardous, biomass, construction, industrial and municipal waste among others.
Simple Design: FastOx has a low maintenance design with high efficiency and overcomes limitations of other waste conversion techniques.
4000F Temperature: FastOx enables temperatures up to 4000F allowing the molecular breakdown of waste.
Low Cost: FastOx has lower overall capital and operating cost.
Multiple Products: FastOx can produce a number of products including Electricity, Hydrogen, Diesel and Ammonia.
FastOx can be used by municipalities, waste producers, waste developers and landfills. The end products can be used in a number of industries including petrochemical, energy and fertilizer industries among others. A full business plan pertaining to one's specific project can be calculated using Sierra's online calculator (https://sierraenergy.com/economics/cost-calculator/) by inputing type of waste/product desired, etc and receiving an output consisting of CapEx, OpEx, cost, etc.
Sierra Energy estimates that the FastOx technology can power 14 million homes if used throughout the United States of America. The company has installed a FastOx gasification plant at US Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett to commercialize the technology.
Sierra Energy recently raised $33 million in an investment round by Bill Gates-led fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures, to develop and commercialize FastOx.
Mike holds a degree in Political Science from UC Davis. He has been a speaker at the White House, Pentagon and Greentech Conferences. He is the founder of Sierra Energy. He is presently the President and CEO of the same.
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