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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Gramitherm is a patented Swiss technology that uses prarie grass – the most abundant and underutilized raw material – to manufacture thermal insulation boards. The technology was launched in 2006 and acquired in 2014 by Clean Insulating Technologies, a Lausanne based company.
At a time when heating constitutes 50-60% of the energy consumption of commercial and residential buildings, Gramitherm helps reduce energy consumption by providing insulation to heat and cold that is more efficient than mineral fiber or synthetic insulators. Mineral fibers also release harmful compounds in the air, while natural fibers are toxic free and help fight indoor pollution.The natural fibers in Gramitherm also absorb noise and regulate humidity.
The manufacturing process of Gramitherm involves extraction, drying and opening of raw grass cellulose fibers. Semi-rigid boards are then produced using the AIR-LAY process and a thermobonding oven. The process ensures a full utilization of all grass components, generates high efficiency and added value to the raw material.The fibers are treated with a natural solution to achieve fire retardancy and anti-fungal properties.The liquid digestible components of the grass are collected and used for the production of biogas. The production process for Gramitherm is zero-waste and energy efficient
Unlike synthetic materials which take up to 500 years to decompose and mineral wools which cost more to recycle than produce, Gramitherm can be recycled fully and naturally. According to a life cycle analysis performed by the University of Zurich in 2015, manufacturing 1kg Gramitherm results in an absorption of 1.405kg of CO2. Gramitherm has been awarded the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution label by the Solar Impulse Foundation and the Bouygues Award for circular economy at Vivatech 2018 .
At €10/m2, Gramitherm is one of the most competitively priced bio-sourced insulation products in the market. The company currently has a production capacity in Belgium. It is working on scaling up the business and plans to roll out the concept all over the world.
Gramitherm can be used to insulate parts of new and renovated buildings. The main application areas are under roofs and between the rafters, for doubling of exterior walls and interior partitions, as a complement.
Christian has a degree in Engineering Management, Business and Organisation from the Solvay Brussels School. He has over 30 years of experience in international trading, management and the building materials industry.