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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The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a key component of National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures’ partnership to reduce plastic waste, asks problem solvers from around the globe to develop novel solutions to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis.
More than 9 million tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans each year, and without interventions, this number is expected to almost double to 17 million tons per year by 2025. The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge will focus on three strategic ways to address this growing crisis: designing alternatives to single-use plastic, identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, and effectively communicating the need for action through data visualization.
Teams will compete for aggregate prize purses of up to $500,000, and qualified participating teams may have the opportunity to receive a minimum of $1 million in aggregate investment from Sky Ocean Ventures.
The challenge is a one-year competition composed of three complementary tracks that will run simultaneously:
Design track: the Design Track challenges teams to identify pragmatic, investable design solutions to improve food and beverage packaging and containers. This track also includes a “wild card” category that allows teams to submit solutions for other single-use plastics that do not fall within the food packaging or beverage container categories. A panel of expert judges will identify up to 10 finalists in the Design Track, who will each win $5,000. Finalists will then compete for the grand prize of $100,000 and up to two second-place prizes of $45,000 each. The Food Packaging category asks teams to develop new food packaging solutions, including food wrappers and containers. Teams must develop solutions made from a single, easily recycled material without additives, colorants, or adhesives that hinder recycling and without exacerbating pollution through the creation of microplastics. Solutions must also have the same or greater functionality as the products they are designed to replace, and must be designed with current production methods in mind. Bonus points may be awarded for solutions that include technology or design elements to facilitate sorting and recycling, or that include post-consumer recycled material.
Circular Economy track: the Circular Economy Track challenges teams to develop scalable business models and technology solutions, applicable across industries, to reduce plastic packaging waste and encourage the reuse and repurposing of plastic alternatives instead of discarding them after one use. A panel of expert judges will identify up to 10 finalists in the Circular Economy Track, who will each win $5,000. Finalists will then compete for the grand prize of $100,000 and up to two second-place prizes of $45,000 each.
Data Visualization track: the Data Visualization Track challenges teams to represent a relevant, credible data set related to the global challenge of plastic waste as a data visualization. This track aims to result in effective communication about the global plastic crisis by incentivizing the development of innovative data visualizations to accelerate behavior change. Up to four teams will be selected as finalists and will work with the National Geographic Partners graphics team to refine their submissions. The winner will receive $10,000, and the winning data visualization will be considered for digital publication by National Geographic.
Registration opens February 11, 2019
Initial Submission deadline: June 11, 2019
Finalists selected: week of July 8, 2019
Finalists's Submissions due: week of November 11, 2019