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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Plasticoin is a project in Uruguay that uses virtual currency to incentivize consumers to recycleplastic waste. The currency can be used at restaurants and stores.
Nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic waste is not recycled and ends up in the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations. In Uruguay, a country of 3.4 million people, only 35% of plastic waste is collected for recycling.
Plasticoin aims to incentivize consumers to deposit their plastic waste in return for virtual currency. The project is undergoing pilot tests at a seaside resort in Piriapolis city on the country’s Atlantic Ocean coast:
Consumers can register online and deposit plastic waste from their household or collected from the beach at one of the three designated collection centers.
They receive Plasticoin currency on their phone based on the weight and type of waste discarded. The minimum waste is one kg, for which they receive Plasticoins. To promote clean coastal zones, plastic waste and microplastic removed from beaches and oceans results in a higher Plasticoin payment.
The customers can use the currency to get discounts at partnered shops and restaurants. These include yoga centers, surfboard shops, and shops selling bags, toothbrushes, pizza, haircuts, and coffee, among other products.
Plasticoins launched in January 2020 with a grant of $5000 from the Uruguan government’s National Development Agency. The project received more than a thousand users within three weeks, against a target of 100 users in a month.
The project is looking for companies that can provide discounts on their products to Plasticoin users. It is also looking for companies to advertise on the Plasticoin platform. Based on the number of Plasticoins received by the company, it can claim tax benefits under a 2019 law passed in the country.