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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Materiom provides open source recipes and data on materials made from abundant sources of natural ingredients.
For billions of years, plants and animals have evolved to make materials with a particular set of ingredients that other organisms know how to source, use, breakdown, and use again. Currently, large production of materials endure multiple chemical procedures, resulting in negative impacts on the environment at all stages of the manufacturing.
Materiom accelerates natural materials development and lower barriers to entry in materials markets around the world. Working with companies, cities and communities to support the development of local biomaterial supply chains that nourish local ecologies and economies, Materiom's recipe library features open source recipes for materials made from abundant biomass that can be locally sourced.
Recipes use green chemistry methods and nutrients such as sugars, proteins, fats and common minerals, making them biodegradable by design. The team ambition is to build an open database of material property and performance data that can be used for material analyses, digital modeling and product design. This will include mechanical and aesthetic properties for each one of our recipes. To date, they have initial data for agar bioplastic, gelatin bioplastic, mycelium-walnut shell composite, and mussel shell-sucrose ceramic recipes. The properties of the materials are measured scientifically, so they can be compared to materials on the market. Data can be used to identify sustainable alternatives for product design.
This research and recipes can be used for all of those interested in making more sustainable materials.