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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Nsheke straws is a project by Afrosoft Limited to replace plastic straws by using fast growing Nsheke grass from Tanzania. The straws made from this grass can be reused multiple times, made from a renewable resource and are compostable.
Americans alone use an estimated 500 million straws every day, well above one daily for each of the country’s nearly 320 million residents and McDonald’s alone provides single-use plastic straws through 36,000 restaurants in over 100 countries.
Afrosoft Limited is currently carrying out research and testing prototypes on the best way to replace plastic straws in both local and foreign markets using Nsheke grass. These Straws have been used for decades by local communities in all districts of Kagera region in Tanzania, especially when taking local beer.
Their initiative is to transform this local design into a global solution by transferring them from bushes to modern farms then processing them. The Nsheke Straw idea has been shortlisted among the 101 best ideas out of the submitted 618 in the OPENIDEO Circular Design Challenge.