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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The PREVENT Waste Alliance was launched in Berlin in May 2019 by a coalition of over 30 organizations from the private sector, public institutions, academia and civil society. It is a platform encouraging international cooperation for global waste management.
3 billion people lack the access to controlled waste disposal facilities, it is estimated that 5 to 13 million tons of plastic waste leak into our oceans every year and only 20% of annually generated e-waste is recycled in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
The Alliance aims to work together to effectively reduce, collect and recycle waste and develop a functional waste management system. Another objective is to close the circular economy loop by partnering with companies responsible for introducing plastic packaging to the market and assisting them with waste management. The Alliance will primarily focus on single-use plastics, waste from plastic packaging and electrical equipment.
The Alliance aims to drive a circular economy through which waste is converted to valuable raw material. Initial funding to launch the platform has been provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Alliance will establish networks with partners from various fields of expertise and a number of countries. Two such trade associations have already been established in Indonesia and Ghana. The Alliance hopes to increase the uptake of secondary resources in low and middle-income countries, and eliminate the practice of outsourcing waste to them.
Among the 30 member organizations are Green Cycle and Blackforest Solutions. Packaging industries like Nestle and Plastic Bank have also joined the platform.
The founding members of the platform include Wuppertal Institut, Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, WWFDeutschland, the BDE and the Federal Ministry for Environment (BMU).