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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Ống Hút Cỏ is the straw brand of a Vietnam-based company Cua Hang 3T that manufacture two kinds of straws out of sedge grass: fresh ones and dried ones.
Each year, 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans and plastic straws are part of the generated plastic pollution.
Tran Minh Tien, the founder of Cua Hang 3T, has shown how a certain type of grass named Lepironia articulata that is prolific around the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is converted into drinking straws:
The hollow stems of grass is collected, washed and cut into 20-centimeter lengths.
The inner surface of the tubes are cleaned using a metal rod, rinsed again and wrapped together in banana leaves.
The fresh straws can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks, or kept in room temperature for a week.
The dried straws (obtained after being left in the sun for 2-3 days and then baked in an oven) last up to six months in room temperature.
These straws can be used only once in restaurants but can be reused several times at home. Before usage, they can be soaked in either water, soap nut, salt water, or even boiled water. A dry straw is sold for VND1000 (4.3 cents) and the fresh one for VND600 (2.8 cents). After usage, they should be thrown in a compost bin.
They are entirely naturally, handcrafted, and they don't contain any chemicals.
They can be distributed anywhere is Vietman, but not yet abroad.