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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Simply Cups is a collection and recycling service dedicated to turning paper and plastic cups into second-life materials.
Simply Cups came into existence to address the UK’s fastest growing waste stream: the estimated 2.5 billion paper drinking cups disposed of each year. These cups contain an inner polyethylene layer, needed to keep the liquid in the cup and stop the rest of the material getting soggy, which, in the past, paper processing plants were unable to separate and so, consequently, the only solution was to send them to landfill or waste to energy facilities. Although there have been previous attempts to recycle paper cups, these ultimately failed due to the lack of a logistics service that could economically collect the cups and the absence of facilities to process and recycle the material once it had been collected.
The service provide manufacturers, organizations operating in the supply chain as well as beverage and hospitality outlets with a cost-efficient collection and recycling service that reduces their operating costs and improves their environmental credentials.
With the already established logistics service in place, operated by Simply Cups’ co-partner Simply Waste Solutions, the scheme was ready to go and launched in August 2014.
Simply Cups works directly with customers to help them efficiently segregate the materials and then by-passes the traditional ‘mixed recycling route’ by collecting, bulking and then sending the materials direct to the re-processors. What the customer gets is a completely transparent service, together with a documented audit trail and the re-assurance that their cups are truly being recycled.
Importantly for customers, this service currently costs no more than that already paid to their existing waste management company but with the prospect that, as the scheme grows and more material is reprocessed, there will be opportunities for further cost savings.
Many other materials are often disposed of as ‘mixed recyclables’. Increasingly, though, customers want to know what is happening to these materials in order to validate the recycling process, so they can meet their own CSR objectives.
Knowing that customers are using many different materials, usually at the same site, Simply Cups also began to accept cups made from Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS) and PET in 2016.
To take advantage of the Simply Cups collection service, customers first need to become a member.
Coffee cup recycling points have recently been installed around the Marylebone station in London to ensure commuters can dispose of their coffee cups responsibly. If successful the scheme will be rolled out to other Chiltern Railways stations. The cups collected will be turned into reusable cups (such as rCUPS) and other functional products, closing the loop and extending the life span of the paper cup significantly.
Simply Cups movement is expanding outside England: following the success of Simply Cups UK, Closed Loop introduced Simply Cups to the Australian market in 2016 and is now launching The Glasgow Cup Movement, which is Scotland's first cup recycling campaign.