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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Green Antz is a Philippines-based company founded in 2012 that upcycles plastic sachets into bricks and pavers. The bricks have higher strength and lower cost than conventional concrete blocks.
The Philippines uses 60 billion plastic sachets every year, according to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, or about one sachet per person per day. The single-use sachets are disposed of and have no commercial value.
Green Antz produces bricks out of concrete and shredded plastic sachets. Sachets collected from industrial and commercial waste are first washed and shredded, and then mixed with cement. The combination is poured into a brick pressing machine. Finally, the bricks are dried.
Each brick contains about 100 sachets. The company claims that plastic makes the bricks better at thermal insulation than conventional bricks. The bricks also have higher compressive strength.
The bricks do not have a smooth surface like regular blocks, but come with connectors similar to Lego pieces so they can be stacked to full height and concrete mortar is poured in the connectors to bind the structure. This process is faster than regular blocks, which need concrete mix to be applied and cured to each layer of blocks.
The company is working with public schools and communities to source used sachets, and offers a discount on the bricks for every 2.5 kg of sachets it receives. The company has 10 eco-hubs supplying the bricks in partnership with construction companies. It has also partnered with the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability(PARMS) to help increase the production of the bricks.