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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Opus 12 has developed a device that recycles CO2 into chemicals and fuels. The startup was founded at Stanford University, where Etosha Cave and Kendra Kuhl were conducting research into converting CO2 into usable materials. Nicholas Flanders met them at Stanford and joined the team to put his business experience to work to help turn the research into a viable company.
"Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value." -R. Buckminster Fuller. Every year US industries throw away over 5.5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. What if CO2 could be instead converted into useful liquid fuels and chemicals? I study the electrochemical conversion of CO2 and water into various chemicals such as ethanol, methane, and carbon monoxide.
At scale, Opus 12’s technology can turn trash to treasure by incorporating novel electrode materials into a commercially-available electrochemical reactor in order to increase the conversion of carbon dioxide at the catalyst’s surface. This electrochemical process can turn CO2 into chemical products and fuels, such as syngas, ethylene, ethanol, and methane.
The mission of Opus 12 is to help offset global CO2 emissions produced by recycling CO2 into other products and reducing the footprint of the highly energy-intensive chemical industry, while creating a new revenue stream from what is discarded today as a waste product.
Opus 12 was one of six clean energy startups selected from around the country to be incubated in the first cohort of the prestigious Cyclotron Road program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Today, their commercial operations are in Berkeley, CA.
Etosha founded Opus 12 in 2014 to spin-off the technology into industry and put together a team of Stanford graduate students to work on this mission. They have identified potential customers and working to scale up the technology. They recently were accepted into a new type of incubator program in silicon valley called Cyclotron Road.