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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IoT startup SharpEnd aims to drive positive consumer behavior through connected packaging systems that can interact with smartphones to unlock exclusive brand content for customers.
Research in the UK showed that consumers are often confused about proper disposal methods. Residents are sometimes unaware of recycling points and methods, leading to a lack of motivation to recycle.
In a new collaboration with the UK Horizon 2020 consortium, SharpEnd is utilizing its technology to drive positive consumer recycling through gamification and incentives. The startup has developed a localized app allowing consumers to scan the tags on the connected packaging used for their products. The app is aimed at incentivizing recycling through gamification, increasing consumer engagement.
Additionally, consumers will be provided with information on recycling methods and points.
The collaboration is aimed at improving consumer engagement through recycling, and assisting brands in reaching sustainability targets.
SharpEnd uses IoT technology to leverage NFC (Near Field Communication) tags on the packaging used for brand products. The NFC tags can communicate with smartphones at a short distance upon scanning, and unlock exclusive brand information in exchange for consumer data. The technology aims at increasing consumer exchange post-purchase, allowing brands to track customer behavior and engagement through brand content.
The startup can assist brands in creating NFC tags, QR codes and short URLs to tag product packaging. Through campaign management tools, brands can define the destination, service and experience for consumers through the tags. Finally, with real-time analytics, technology allows companies to track consumer behavior and product engagement.
SharpEnd has won the 2014 Europas Best Startup Award and the 2015 Drum Startup of the Year.
Cameron is a Sustainable Adviser with the organization WaterAid. He is the Founder of SharpEnd, a startup that has been awarded honours like Best IoT Startup and Startup of the Year. He is a member of The Friday Club London.