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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The Freiburg Cup Program is an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable cup for on-the-go coffee. For a 1 euro pledge it is available in over 120 cafes and shops in Freiburg.
Every hour more than 300,000 disposable cups for coffee are consumed in Germany. Disposable cups can not be recycled and mean an immense consumption of raw materials and energy. In many cities, the used cups become a garbage problem. As an alternative, many Freiburg shops and cafes have started to offer the Frei burg Cup, a reusable system for enjoying coffee without waste.
The city of Freiburg wanted to know if they could succeed in offering the mass of disposable cups a sustainable alternative, if there were enough dedicated coffee providers in Freiburg to support this concept and how open would the consumers be to a reusable system. They launched the Free Burg Cup at the end of November 2016 . Since then, the Pfandbecher has established itself in the city center and in the adjacent districts. The most important partners of the campaign are Freiburg businesses, which were also involved in the preparation. The Frei burg Cup is supervised by the ASF (Abfallwirtschaft und Stadtreinigung Freiburg GmbH).
The system is simple:
Customers ask for the Frei Burg Cup at one of the participating coffee or bakery shops,
They pay one euro deposit for the returnable cup and can return it after use at all partner companies. The Frei burg Cup works like a normal returnable deposit bottle.
The deposit is reimbursed for each returned mug. The cups are rinsed professionally after the return and then come back into circulation.
The system includes as well a returnable lid for the Freiburg Cup, available everywhere for 50 cents, with the same system where there is also the Frei burg Cup. The lid is held by the client / customer, it fits in any pocket and can always return to get the deposit back.
With the success for this program, other cities have expressed to replicate it. This system is one of many returnable cup schemes that are developing around Europe.