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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Mobius’ mission is to create renewable chemicals, materials, and energy from organic waste starting with biodegradable plastics made from lignin.
They have successfully executed their first project by making bioplastics from lignin, the primary waste product of the paper, biofuel, and biorefining industries. Their technology allows lignin to be combined with other biopolymers through Mobius’ proprietary process to give a biodegradable and compostable resin in the form of pellets. These bioplastic resin pellets can be processed using standard plastic conversion technologies like injection molding to make a wide range of products.
Their current focus is the development of biodegradable and compostable horticultural containers and flower pots for greenhouses and nurseries. These containers allow plants and flowers to be planted while in their containers, where the plastics will degrade in the soil into water, compost, and CO2. Future interest to the team at mobius include development of application technologies for other single-use plastics, such as food service items like containers, straws, and utensils, as well as packaging materials for consumer goods that can be disposed of in an industrial composting stream.
The organizations supporting them are Village Capital, McCune Capital, NSF, and Clean Energy Trust. Mobius is situated in Tennessee, United States of America, and started by Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle in 2016. The startup earned $500,000 in seed funding at the Western Growers 2019 AgSharks Competition.
Jeff Beegle completed his MS in Microbiology from the University of Tennessee. Before that, he received a BS in Bioengineering from the University of Toledo. His areas of interest are: water treatment, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, biomaterials, and waste-to-product development.
Co-Founder and CEO
Tony Bova is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Energy Science & Engineering at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab, Tony is also one of the founding members of the University of Toledo Green Fund. His areas of interest include: green chemistry, waste valorization, and the circular economy.