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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ReNew ELP is at the forefront of a new, cutting-edge technology that can convert end-of-life plastic waste into refined synthetic hydrocarbon products, including low carbon synthetic crude oil, and valuable chemicals and waxes.
Globally 311 million tonnes of plastics are produced per year, but only 5% is currently recycled. In the UK, over 2.5 million tonnes of plastics goes to landfill every year. Sorting plastics to enable them to be recycled is both challenging and expensive, but ReNew patented technology enables this material to be processed into high value oils and chemicals, recovering scarce resources.
Using a unique, patented hydrothermal upgrading platform, the Cat-HTR (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), ReNew ELP will shortly commence construction of the world’s first commercial scale plant at its recently acquired site in Teesside, North East England. The plant will use an innovative chemical process to convert end-of-life plastic waste into sustainable oils and chemicals, contributing to the establishment of a Circular Economy. Their approach will demonstrate that a low-carbon, low-waste society can be achieved with the right focus, technology and investment. ReNew ELP’s product is sustainable, stable, low sulphur and non-corrosive and can be blended within a conventional refinery to produce recycled oils and chemicals. The product can also be fractionated to produce valuable biochemicals, solvents, waxes and other petrochemical products.
ReNew ELP has an ambitious program of development in the UK. Their first site in Teesside has a potential total processing capacity of 80,000 tonnes per annum. The company is looking at other potential sites around the UK and is also offering to license the technology to waste producers and waste processing companies. The longer-term goal for ReNew ELP is to channel further investment into emerging technologies to support the creation of renewable and sustainable energy and useful chemical products.
ReNew ELP has been selected by The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners among five entrepreneurs and startups that are capable of successfully recovering multi-material flexible packaging waste for new uses.
Richard is has worked extensively in energy and technology companies. He has experience of design, manufacturing, commissioning and operation of technologies within Industry sectors as diverse as Gasification, Bioethanol Production and Ironmaking. Richard graduated with a MEng (hons) degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Sheffield and is a Chartered Chemical Engineer. As MD of ReNew ELP Richard drives the overall performance of the business and is a member of the Board of Directors.