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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ReCORK™ is North America’s largest natural cork recycling initiative. It is an alliance of individuals and businesses working together to collect and recycle natural corks. ReCORK™ is sponsored by SOLE™ and aims to be a point of interaction for education around cork recycling and sustainability.
Each year, nearly 31 billion bottles of wine are consumed worldwide. The corks used as stoppers are considered waste and thrown into landfills. However, natural cork offers a number of benefits with its moisture absorbing and shock-resistant properties. Cork can be easily molded, making it a viable source of raw material for consumer products.
Through a large network of businesses and individuals, ReCORK has set up an effective system to collect waste corks and repurpose them to create an environmentally friendly alternative to otherwise petroleum-based products. There are roughly 3,000 drop-off locations, more than 8,000 new cork trees planted, and over 75 million natural corks collected.
ReCORK's system works in a few simple steps:
Harvest: Commercial cork is harvested from natural Cork Oak trees. The trees act as carbon sinks and regenerate their cork bark once part of it is harvested, increasing the lifespan of the tree by nearly 300 years.
Bottling: ReCORK has partnered with vineyards who use natural cork to bottle their wines.
Recycling: With the aid of partners across North America, ReCORK has collected over 91 million natural corks through its collection points.
Grinding: The collected cork is ground into a powder to aid in molding. The ground powder itself is a viable material for sustainable foams.
Creating: The cork is then repurposed into eco-friendly consumer products.
ReCORK utilizes the versatility of natural cork and its ability to be durable, lightweight and rot-resistant.
Footwear company SOLE, through its adoption of ReCORK, has launched a range of footwear including men's shoes, women's shoes, and footbeds. The products are especially suitable for athletes and are a highly sustainable alternative to petroleum-based raw materials.
ReCORK also hosts a range of fitness items such as yoga blocks and surf traction pads. The company also invites businesses to join the program in the form of various partnerships, including public collection partners, private collection partners, event partners, re-use partners, retail partners, closed loop partners.
ReCORK's products can be bought through their official website.