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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German designer Alexander Schul has created a line of furniture pieces made of recycled plastics and is called "Substantial".
His overall vision is to design products that stimulate people in a positive and sustainable manner. This means in his design he tries to equally consider the person, the industry and the environment, always trying to create a win-win-win situation.
This furniture line is made from sheets of recycled plastic (HIPS: high impact polystyrene). The only other materials involved are stainless steel screws. The form and structure of the furniture originate from the idea of combining efficient production methods, functionality and timeless elegance, with the formative possibilities that the material holds within itself.
That means the objects are universal, practical and manufacturable on a large scale. Considering the fact that only around 40 percent of the plastic in Europe gets recycled, this design offers an opportunity to raise that percentage. Part of the problem could thus be transformed into added value.
Alexander won the top design award for his sleek “Substantial” furniture series, comprising a chair, lamp, and side table made entirely out of recycled plastic. He was also the Design Category Winner of the Ro Plastic Prize.