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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HemCell®'s innovation relates to a specific usage and selection of a worldwide available agricultural waste material and transforming it via a low cost & low tech process into a generic (home) biodegradable plastic that can be used by any injection molder or extruder on existing standard equipment and tools.
The window of opportunity is for all products that now have a return or waste collection process such as glass, crates or plastic materials. HemCell's new material eliminates the necessity and costs of having a waste return process in place.
The process involves collection and logistics of agricultural waste. Organic and inorganic PLA waste is then polymerized in such a fashion that the material produced is home biodegradable. The ideal everyday usage temperature tolerance is up to 90-95 °C. The entire project has created a "waste gradient" across the globe, yielding an economic and environmental waste flow in the right direction. The polymer manufactured gets further processed and comes out as UV treated pellets which can be stored for a long time. The bio-polymer can be used to produce products or applications such as:
Extrusion or sheets for thermoforming without changing existing tools.
They have also launched an initiative wherein trees are being planted. This will enable them to compensate, in its entirety, for the emissions they generate as a company. They are expanding through licensed partnerships across the globe, such as:
They have been featured in several TV shows in order to spread their ideas and insights about their processes. They have been nominated for multiple awards, the latest being Zeeland Innovation Award 2017. Their efforts truly manifest on a grass-root level. HemCell® has the promise to change how waste is managed in primary sector. This will translate directly and positively towards any national economy.