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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Fishy Filaments, as their name indicates, are connected to the fishing industry in Cornwall, UK.
Fishy Filaments collect end-of-life fishing gear direct from the commercial fishing fleet and process them in their factory to produce a super-clean micro-pellet that is then extruded into a 100% recycled nylon filament for use in desktop 3D printing.
Fishy Filaments started up using equity-based crowdfunding; so instead of offering rewards they offered shares. They have since also acquired funds from the EU, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Council, attesting to the viability of their venture. A second round of funding was completed in 2019 from existing shareholders confident that the company was heading in the right direction.
Their work is recognised by the Marine Stewardship Council as contributing to sustainable fisheries by helping remove the danger that these fishing wastes will pollute the oceans, and ensnare non-target species.
They have been awarded a certificate of Environmentally Aware Trading in accordance with Bioregional’s 10 One Planet Principles and a Life Cycle Analysis is currently under way conducted by Exeter University.
Ian Falconer is the man behind Fishy Filaments. A practical engineer with two decades of experience working at the coal face and in the board room, Ian is working to eliminate the idea that waste is the default option for high value plastics.