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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In 2011, the Studio developed a technology which combines living mycelium from fungi with industrial organic waste products such as potato starch and cocoa husks to make a material for 3D printing. The dried mycelium is used as a binding material for organic waste. After the item is printed, they wait for the mycelium to grow and stabilize the structure.
Their material is not only carbon neutral, but it is also carbon negative, as the mycelium they use is still alive, and is constantly taking up carbon dioxide to survive, and it produces oxygen, purifying the room's air quality. At the end of its life, it can be disposed by composting and used as manure. The items printed are then used by them in interior decoration and to design public space.
Their products have expanded beyond art pieces and can now also be home and office accessories like curtains, light fixtures etc. They also produce more usual products like indoor and outdoor furniture and playgrounds for children with the same material. So they, in fact, create living furniture and art.
The founder is Eric Klarenbeek and the main designer is Maartje Dros; the enterprise is based in Amsterdam. They have been reported by national and international press and media and have displayed their craft at exhibitions all over Europe and in China.