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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Austrian recycling expert Starlinger & Co. GmbH has introduced a circular packaging system for recycling woven polypropylene bags into rPP bags.
An estimated 380 million 4 loop big bags or Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBC) are sold each year. This produces around 800,000 tons of recycling material annually. With the Circular Packaging concept for FIBC, Starlinger introduces a system to turn woven PP bags back into high-quality rPP bags.
Starlinger has developed a closed-loop system where PP bags are granulated to rPP. Following this, the rPP is put through production, usage, recovery, and recycling converting it back to high quality woven rPP bags.
The process involves the following steps:
The woven big bags are collected in a big bag filler ensuring the least contamination and similar composition of products
They are then shredded, washed and processed into rPP using Starlinger's recoSTAR dynamic recycling line
The recoSTAR line produces rPP as secondary raw materials to be sewn into polypropylene fabric for big bags
This Circular Packaging system is eliminating the need for downcycling. It has been tested in collaboration with big bag manufacturers Louis Blockx and LC Packaging, where the resultant rPP bags have shown the same tensile strength, weight, and safety as virgin PP bags.
The recycling of big bags not only lowers the cost of raw materials for FIBC manufacturers but also lowers the carbon footprint of bulk packaging.
Starlinger will introduce the Circular Packaging system for woven PP big bags at the Packaging Exhibition K 2019 to be held in Dusseldorf, Germany.