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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10XBeta is a New York based product development firm creating future-shifting products where speed-to-market is paramount and with NRG and partners, they designed, developed and manufactured sustainable “shoes without a footprint” for the launch of COSIA’s Carbon XPRIZE.
To kick off the competition that aims to inspire the innovation of products using carbon capture technologies, 10XBeta was commissioned to create a sneaker using carbon capture technology, which was achieved after extensive material science and biochemistry research.
10XBeta approached the challenge through research of material science first. In partnership with CO2 recycling company Novomer, a proprietary catalyst was developed. Novomer specializes in turning CO2 into polyol chemicals. The catalyst reacts with CO2 to create polyurethane which was used as a raw material for the shoes.
The production of the polyol utilizes CO2 emissions, which are captured and liquefied to produce the resultant flexible chemical. The newly developed polyurethane was then used as a base polyol, replacing commercially used polyols like polyether, polyester, and polycarbonate.
Following this, 10XBeta partnered with Troy Polymers who helped develop the polyols into a polymer for production and yield a product with an extremely low carbon footprint.
A prototype of the shoes was made and displayed at the Cosia's Carbon XPRIZE contest.