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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Radical Plastics has developed a novel technology for the manufacture of economically attractive, ecologically friendly, soil biodegradable plastics.
At a time when the planet is choking on plastic waste, finding ways of making non-polluting plastics has become a major global priority. Soil biodegradable plastic films with targeted onset and rates of biodegradability for agricultural applications (e.g. mulch films) is the initial focus.
The technology involves blending conventional plastics with a proprietary catalyst made up of fine mineral matter (patent pending). When properly compounded, this naturally occurring fine mineral matter has the ability to render plastic biodegradable in the natural environment.
This two-stage degradation process begins with a chemical phase, in which the long polymer molecules are broken down to smaller components by a free radical mechanism. This triggers a second, biological phase in which microorganisms in the environment see these components as food and metabolize the material turning it into biomass, CO2 and water. The utilization of a naturally-occurring byproduct from industrial processing which otherwise accumulates in the environment as waste.
This provides the benefice of regular plastic: the cost effectiveness, the physical properties, with the added benefit of biodegradability.
They are looking for an initial investment that will allow them to complete a larger scale technology validation, finish their compliance testing and begin market development for this radical solution. They plan to expand this technology beyond agricultural plastics to other applications such as flexible packaging so we can truly tackle plastic pollution on a global scale.
The startup won the 2019 National CleanTech Open competition.