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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Plastic whale is an innovative, social enterprise determined to clear the world's waters of plastic waste.
Its humble beginnings began in the Amsterdam Canal which is being polluted by plastic – the team decided to experiment with the waste materials and create a boat. It was a success and from that have sprung many more boats and events that happen using the transport.
The company now offers what they term “plastic fishing” whereby you can take a day venture on their recycled material boats to fish for unwanted litter that will be processed by them. They offer individual, group and company outings.
Aside from this they are now producing sustainable furniture made from the by-products found in the canal which are inspired by whales – in keeping with their ethos to protect the world's oceans. Plastic Whale Circular Furniture is created following the full principles of circular production and design. For this, they partnered with Vepa. The furniture includes recycled steel for the chairs and residual fabrics for the chair cushioning. Nothing goes to waste. At the end of its life cycle, they will pay for your product and use it as raw materials in new products.
They have big plans to expand their mission on a global scale and already have a partner in Bangalore, India. Additionally, they provide educative resources and school events so that every part of the cycle from education, waste management, design and production is achieved for a sustainable future.
Marius Smit is the founder of Plastic Whale and another sustainable company known as WasteBoards. He studied Marketing at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and has work experience in marketing and creative production for businesses.