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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Polymateria is a British business developing a new standard in biodegradable and compostable plastics to help nature deal with plastic pollution.
The startup, which was founded by Imperial alumnus Dr Graham Chapman, is developing additives that allow plastic products and packaging to biodegrade over time. Their scientists have created a proprietary formulation for plastics that makes it possible.
They call their breakthrough, patented technology Biotransformation.
Polymateria is among eleven innovative projects to win the support of a £4m Government fund to tackle plastic pollution. They have been awarded two separate grants from the fund, totaling over £1M.
Polymateria’s CEO, Niall Dunne said: “The grants will allow us to create the first additive-based Biotransforming technology for Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to be exploited in the food packaging market and the first petro-plastic that meets compostability standards. This promises to create a significant business opportunity and will disrupt the biodegradable plastic additive market, setting a new standard in environmentally responsible plastic.”
Polymateria have developed their technology in association with Imperial Innovations and were one of the first occupants in the Imperial White City Incubator when it opened its doors in 2016.
They are now expanding into new and larger office facilities in the I-HUB.
Dr. Chapman has 20+ years experience across retail, manufacturing, and distribution businesses, with a special focus on multi-consumer brands and intellectual property. Prior to setting up Polymateria, Jonathan founded Fashion lab, a dynamic manufacturing group, which was acquired by a global sourcing and logistics company. He has worked on multiple branding and distribution businesses, and is also active in many foundations and charities.