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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rPlanet Earth is a well-capitalized, innovative manufacturer reusing post-consumer plastics to produce the highest quality packaging with the lowest carbon footprint. They have built a vertically integrated plant in North America.
The first plant just opened in Vernon, California, and they are planning to build several more similar plants across the US to establish a fully integrated, coast-to-coast network of packaging manufacturing facilities to reuse post-consumer waste to create high-quality rPET products.
Taking in baled post-consumer PET, including material from curbside collections, the plant will sort, wash, decontaminate and convert it into food and drink packaging. It will melt flakes for moulding and extruding, skipping a pelletizing step. The company’s products will be made from rPET flakes and, at customers’ requests, may contain virgin PET, but rPlanet Earth won’t sell flakes or pellets.
rPlanet Earth will use Krones’ bottle-grade flake production technologies, which have achieved scientific approval with Coca-Cola. The technology has a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to produce food- and beverage-contact products.
Their goal is to be the leader in low carbon footprint/recycled polyethylene terephthalate ("rPET") based packaging and inspire others to join them in achieving their vision.