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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UK-based startup Huskup has developed a range of reusable coffee cups produced from biodegradable rice husk to replace commercially used disposable cups.
About 2.5 million disposable cups are discarded each year in the Uk, with less than 1% of them being recycled. With their range of reusable coffee cups, Huskup aims to replace single-use cups with their sustainable cups made from rice husk.
Rice husk is a by-product of rice milling and is ultimately biodegradable. Apart from being eco-friendly, Huskup offers a number of benefits from its products:
Rice husk is naturally strong with silicon, fibres and moisture resistance, eliminating the need to mix plastic to enhance durability. Huskup is certified biodegradable to the European Standard EN13432 and has been tested to European LFGB, USA FDA and Japanese food-grade standards.
The lid and sleeve are made from reusable and recyclable 100% food-grade silicon. Huskup is durable if carefully used, and is biodegradable at the end of its life-cycle. This allows Huskup to drive a circular economy with its products.
Huskup can be customized according to the requirement for coffee shops, universities and businesses. Huskup also invites design contributions from independent artists and product collaborations from high profile individuals.
Huskup is available in a range of designs and can be ordered through the official website. The products are also available on Amazon and eBay.
Huskup was presented with the P.E.A. Superhero Award in 2018.