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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Post-consumer recyclate industry leader Envision Plastics has developed OceanBound Plastics, a reliable plastic resin for product manufacturing produced by converting materials at risk of causing ocean pollution.
A study by the University of Georgia revealed that a minimum of 10.6 billion pounds of plastic waste that entered the ocean made its way from land. It is estimated that nearly 16 billion pounds of plastic waste enter the ocean each year globally.
Envision Plastics aims to intercept ocean-bound plastics from global at-risk areas, collecting them before they become pollutants. An at-risk area is defined as an area within 50km from a coastline, where scientific research determines a higher probability of generating land-based marine debris. At-risk areas also lack an organized waste collection and management system.
Envision Plastics works with qualified partners to source, collect and transform the plastic waste. Qualified partners are selected through a certification and inspection procedure, post-which they are qualified to supply source material for OceanBound Plastics.
Once the waste bales are collected, they are inspected for quality and purity. After sorting, the material is grounded into flakes and washed. Once extruded, filtered and pelleted, the material is devolatilized through Envision's patented Deodorized Resin technology. The resultant high-quality plastic resin commercially named OceanBound Plastic is odourless and chemical-free.
The resin is flexible in use, with the ability to be used as a film, or in injection and blow moulding for packaging products. The material is currently being tested for food-grade contact.
OceanBound Plastics is made from HDPE and is recyclable itself, closing the circular waste stream. Once post-consumer waste manufactured from OceanBound Plastic is recovered, it is sent back to Envision Plastics by Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to be recycled in traditional municipal recycling streams.
In June 2014, Envision was acquired by Consolidated Container Company and continues to operate as a distinct business within the CCC family.
In 2017, Envision Plastics committed to recycle 10 million pounds of ocean-bound waste by 2019. Since the inception of the product, Envision Plastics has worked with numerous partners including Dell Technologies, OceanWorks, ReYuze, Juniper Networks, Island Creek Oyster Knives and ViTA.
In 2018, ViTA's hair care product packaging made from 100% OceanBound Plastics earned Envision Plastics and ViTA the Sustainable PackagingCoalition's Innovator of the Year Award.