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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Brighton-based sustainable design studio Gomi has created an environmentally-friendly 12,000m Ah Portable Charger made from 100% non-recyclable plastic waste, with 100% of the power coming from repurposed batteries saved from otherwise going to landfill.
Every year the UK alone throws away 1.2 billion kilos of flexible plastics. Worldwide, 150 billion kilos of flexible plastics are produced every year. Flexible plastic (LDPE) consists of plastic bags, bubble wrap and pallet wrap, which are all not accepted by UK councils for recycling. Battery waste is also a growing issue worldwide, currently over 3 billion batteries are produced every year with no real way to recycle or reuse them in commercial products. Gomi is pushing hard to work with electric car manufacturers to ensure that their batteries has a second life. They hope to release portable chargers made from electric car batteries later in the year too.
Gomi taps into these specific waste streams, and transforms them from a pollutant waste into tech products. Their upcoming launch: a high-powered everyday Portable Charger will be available from 31st March 2020 with a limited-edition through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
Gomi starts every project with one clear question - ‘How can we turn pollutant waste materials into cherished products that people will love using everyday?’ The team began with these basic principles when designing the Portable Chargers:
Big enough to hold enough battery power to keep you charged for long periods without recharging, but slim enough to fit in your pocket.
Beautiful, with each one being an original work of art. This emotionally durable relationship people have with their objects can be enhanced through owning something truly individual.
Easy to manufacture in house in our Brighton workspace, which would benefit the local economy and avoid any long-distance outsourcing which would add to the carbon footprint of the product.
Easy to disassemble back into raw materials after use, to be easily upcycled into new future products.
Affordable and accessible to all, keeping the cost of the product under £40 each.
Gomi works closely with food wholesalers in Sussex, to recycle all of the plastic packaging waste - intercepting it before it's sent to incineration or landfill. The Studio also accepts plastic waste from local households and businesses.
The Studio is currently looking at new ways we can scale-up their production process to intercept more waste, and we hope to use the Kickstarter funds to achieve this. The design studio originally gained global media coverage with their first sustainable innovation launched last year: the Gomi Speakers.