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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Tin Bot Xanh is a Vietnam-based startup that makes biodegradable straws from rice flour. The straws are available for supply globally.
To prepare the straws, rice flour and color are mixed in specific ratios and moisture in a mixer. Then they are baked in an autoclave. This helps ripen and sterilize the straws. Then the straws are pressed in an extrusionprocesses.
The semi-finished straws are then left to dry and then cut into necessary size and then put in a dryer. After drying, bent and damaged straws are removed, and the rest are packaged.
The baking and extrusion processes help gelatinizethedough and ensure it does not disintegrate after coming into contact with water.
The straws are available in three varieties. Coffee straws of 6 millimeters width are available in short (12 cm) and long (22 cm) length. Smoothie straws of 8 mm width in long (22 cm) and short (12 cm) lengths. Milk tea (cold) straws of 12 mm width are available in one length, 22 cm.
They are available in four organic vegetable colors: pink (sourced from magenta plant), orange (cochinchinensis), blue (blue pea) and yellow (Danh Danh seeds).
The straws are available in 1-kilogram packages (consisting of about 200 straws each) from the company’s website and each variety costs VND 100,000 (equal to US$ 4.3). At about 3 cents apeiece, the straws are cheaper than paper straws that cost about 4 cents.
The rice straws stay in hot and cold liquids for more than 90 minutes without turning soggy. They can be eaten afterwards. The straws are approved by theUS FDA. The shelf life is three years when stored in a cool, dry place.
The straws are available for wholesale supply (quantity over 200 kg) all over the world. The company can provide up to two 20-foot containers every month. The company is also looking for distributors.