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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Students and alumni of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) have designed and produced a compostable(pending certification) plastic packaging that reveals the quality of the food. The product, called Plasticor, changes its color (the plastic has a biosensor) when the content is not suitable for consumption. Developed in the Xerém campus labs, the student-developed bioplastic is a sustainable option to avoid food waste.
According to the United Nations, 30% of all food produced on the planet is wasted and goes to trash. The color change of the packaging can contrinute to decrease the amount of food waste, by giving preference to those whose expiration is closer, plus ensuring the reliability of expired foods that can still be consumed safely.
Their packaging made for perishable food is "ecofriendly because it doesn’t use chemical additives and doesn’t take years to degrade" explains João Vítor Balbino, a Biophysics student and one of the seven members of the startup. They use a natural polymer and claim the material is compostable. Testing and certification process has been stopped during COVID but should be done as soon as possible.
The multidisciplinary team involves students from different fields including biotechnology, nanotechnology, biophysics and marketing, a doctoral student of Polymer Science and Technology, and a designer, all from UFRJ.
The team has developed their project through the creation of the startup ResGreen and are working on obtaining certification from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) needed before the product is brought to the market.
Their patent is under proccess of being accepted. With the arrival of the covid-19, many tests were stopped. Theoretically they claim to have all the datas, and just need to have them validated.
They are looking for investors to proceed the scale up and carry out the analyzes that are missing.