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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PolyUsable™ by Regenyx (a joint venture between Agilyx and AmSty) has achieved the ability to recycle waste styrofoam products into new and relevant objects of daily use.
A huge problem in today's recycling ecosystem is to recycle waste in such a way that it does not compromise function while maintaining recycling fluidity across multiple cycles of remoulding and use. Traditional styrofoam vessels once used are destined for landfills.
Through research conducted at University of Houston, the PolyUsable™ process has been developed in order to break styrofoam polymers into its styrene monomers and can be reformed into new products. The application lies in "chemical recycling". Newer catalysts generate or improve the compatibility between a wider range of plastic variants. The role of Agilyx chiefly involves collection of waste and chemically recycling it into styrene, which is a liquid. AmSty takes these up to purify, refine and manufacture polystyrene pellets which can be turned into new styrofoam vessels.
There is a wealth of associated socio-economic benefits including the reduction in waste as well as the rise in jobs and better economic outcomes. The mixing of various plastics will eliminate the need for sorting, bringing cost and energy requirements down. Previously non-recyclable plastics can now be included within the chain. All of this will help move the industry forward towards total sustainability and reinforce the concept of the circular economy. Through a change in the fundamental process, development of new catalysts to facilitate chemical recycling using heterogeneous polymers, incorporating a wide variety of plastics apart from PET, they aim to serve the long term goals of refinement, inclusivity and rise in recycling rates.
In April 2018, the Agilyx plant established a world's first closed-loop recycling plant for polystyrene.