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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Germany-based One Earth-One Ocean is a nonprofit organization working towards cleaning up oceans globally to free them from marine litter and oil and chemical pollution.
One Earth-One Ocean (OEOO) aims to reduce the extent of ocean pollution through the concept and technology of the 'Marine Litter Cleanup'.
The Marine Litter Cleanup project comprises of two collection vessels which can be used in inland waters or oceans to collect plastic waste from rivers. The project aims to collect, sort and process the waste to create recycled plastic bales along with recovering fuel and energy. So far, the project has been deployed in two stages:
SeeHamster: the first generation collectors launched in 2012 have been updated to the 5th generation in 2019. These are small catamarans about four metres long and two metres wide and a fold-down net or fishing gear with which plastic garbage from inland waters is collected. The SeeHamsters are in use in Cambodia, Germany and Asia.
SeeKuh: launched in Lubek in 2016, the collector can gather the waste from a depth of 4 metres. The ship, also based on the catamaran shape, has a size of 12 x 10 meters and will clean bays, estuaries and coastal sections. It is also equipped with a water analyzer which can test water samples to identify the type of waste or other sources of pollution.
The SeeKuh vessels are the first to be licensed by DNV/GL worldwide. OEOO aims to make the SeeKuh vessels completely reliant on renewable energy sources like solar or wind in the future.
Additionally, OEOO has launched the SeeElefant, which treats, sorts and processes the waste collected by the vessels using a plant technology that has been integrated into the ship. The SeeElefant can produce plastic bales as well as recover energy and fuel from the waste. The plastic waste is crushed and cleaned and plastics like PVC and PET are sorted out. The remaining mixture is melted and evaporated to separate chlorine and sulfur. The remaining gas is then condensed to obtain fuel.
Around 30% of the fuel is consumed by the vessels and the rest can be sold to other ships and vessels. Waste processing is done in partnership with BIOFABRIK, using their WASTX Plastic technology.
OEOO has also built the International Marine Litter Database, an extensive database comprising of scientific studies and findings on marine litter from around the world.
One Earth-One Ocean has received a number of awards for their work, including 2017 European Inventor Award and the Federal Award for Ecodesign in 2019. The organization is supported by brands like Bruckner Group, Novus, Greenland Seafood and Denner among others.