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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RETURNR is an environmental initiative that aims to replace single use takeaway packaging with equivalent reusable solutions. They are managed and shared through an existing cafe network, minimising waste and resources.
Return & reuse prevents single use packaging going to landfill. This reduces resource usage and potential inefficiencies of recycling and down-cycling.
RETURNR employs a shared pool of products & materials chosen for hygiene, safety and longevity.
The model works as follows at participating cafes:
Request the food in a RETURNR container and pay a deposit for it.
Rinse it after use and return to any cafe in the network to have the deposit refunded.
RETURNR defines the reuse and pooling economy, providing a reusable food/drink packaging that is truly managed cradle to cradle.
This provides users with a superior eating experience (compared to disposables) at no cost to the consumer. All materials used by RETURNR are either 100% recyclable or biodegradable and they take back their assets at the end of life. They are now out of the trial phase and will be launching 16 products before the end of the year. Their newly launched stainless steel coffee cup is designed to be used for both hot & cold beverages.
RETURNR is now available on Deliveroo which is a food delivery service. They provide the consumer the option of using sustainable alternative packaging to avoid single use plastic packaging.
Its founder Jamie Forsyth also founded a lunchbox named BeetBox, selling a portable Glass Lunch Bowl to encourage users to bring lunch to work (from home or take away), while minimising single-use & plastic food packaging waste.