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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Mango Materials produces biodegradable polymers from waste biogas (methane) that are economically competitive with conventional, oil-based plastics.
The company produces poly-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA) powder, a valuable biopolymer that is converted into a variety of ecofriendly, plastic products such as children’s toys, electronic casings, water bottles, and food packaging containers. Due to a rising preference for green products, demand for biodegradable and non petroleum-based plastics is growing rapidly.
Mango Materials has developed a process technology platform to produce biodegradable materials from low-cost, globally abundant waste biogas (methane) that are cost competitive with conventional oil-based plastics. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and an important greenhouse gas often produced as a byproduct at sites such as wastewater treatment plants, landfills and agricultural facilities. However, the largest source of industrial methane emissions is the oil and gas industry, which can be another feedstock source for Mango Materials.
An increasingly high demand for low-cost, biodegradable materials cannot be met with current technologies and products. Competitors’ feedstocks are either oil, which is low cost but produces non-biodegradable plastic, or sugar, which may produce biodegradable materials but is expensive. Mango Materials uses rapidly renewable methane, which does not compete with agricultural lands, and a fermentation process in which bacteria are naturally selected to produce low-cost, biodegradable materials.
The company has scaled its conversion process technology to pilot scale (500L fermenter) and is operating its pilot-unit at the partnering methane site, Silicon Valley Clean Water (a waste water treatment plant in Redwood City, CA). While this scale has proven invaluable in terms of de-risking the technology, additional funds are required to launch Mango Materials as an established commercial entity. This renewable bioproducts start-up company located is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company was founded by researchers from Stanford University based on a unique approach to produce poly-hydroxyalkanoate polymers (PHAs) with better economics and greater sustainability than using conventional feedstocks and processes. PHA biopolymers can be used for a variety of applications and can be a substitute for many conventional plastics goods. Once these goods are no longer needed, they may be disposed of in a waste facility. PHA biopolymers are completely biodegradable and if the materials end up in a landfill or waste water treatment plant, they will biodegrade back to methane, thus creating a closed-loop process.
Molly is a biopolymers and biocomposites engineer with experience in construction management and consulting in venture capital. She has contributed to multiple patents in the bioplastics and biocomposites industry. Dr. Morse received her Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, with an emphasis on anaerobic biodegradation of biocomposities for the building industry. She received her B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. At Mango Materials, Molly leads financing efforts through both public and private entities as well as coordination with various strategic partners. She travels extensively to attend conferences and events to publicize the Mango Materials technology.