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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The Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) represents the entire polyethylene (PE) value chain, from major resin producers, manufacturers, recyclers, and brand owners.
Their primary goals are to:
Double the recycling of polyethylene (PE) film packaging to 2 billion lbs. by 2020.
Promote and increase plastic film recycling through education and outreach.
Enhance and expand the commercial film recovery infrastructure.
To achieve these goals, the FFRG works to increase access to and participation in plastic film recycling for both consumers and businesses.
The FFRG support PlasticFilmRecycling.org and their hallmark initiative, the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), is a national public awareness and outreach program designed to empower motivated stakeholders to contribute to a common goal: to make plastic film packaging a commonly recycled material with a strong and ever-growing recycling rate.
They recycle post consumers bags and wraps and post commercial films.
WRAP works with stakeholders including local and state governments, retailers, and MRFs to educate consumers about what types of plastic film are recyclable, and how and where to recycle it. Many successful WRAP campaigns across the U.S. have helped communities keep plastic film out of their MRFs and increase the amount of plastic film collected for recycling at drop-off locations.
WRAP develop programs with businesses and the communities to run successful campaigns and work on developing an ecosystem of participants as shown in this case study.
The FFRG supports also the How2Recycle label, a standardized labeling system on packaging that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the consumer.
They have a good list of sponsors including DOW, P&G, Berry Global, EFS Plastics, Avangard Innovative, SC Johnson, etc. They work with 3 key partners: The Association of Plastic Recyclers, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.