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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Focusing on the transformation of bio-matter, the project Sunflower Entreprise has been developed by designer Studio Thomas Vaillyto explore the potential of sunflower leftovers to create new applications and prototypes embedded in sustainable, innovative production systems.
Sunflowers are commonly farmed to produce oil, seeds or bio-fuel. After pressing the oil out, a part can be used as animal feed but most of the crop goes to waste. The stalk’s foamy structure, the strong fiber of the bark or the flower’s dark brown proteins are left behind. These agrowastes can be valuable resources to produce novel bio materials.
With the scientific expertise of the ENSIACET laboratory, studio Thomas Vailly has investigated for atelier Luma, the potential of using sunflower leftovers to create new applications and prototypes embedded in sustainable production systems. Entering the realm of bio-plastics, a vast number of applications of what was previously considered waste becomes possible: from a tiny bolt to a large insulation panel, from a bio-board to an iPhone case.
Studio Thomas Vailly have been working on other projects including "Reconfiguration of a tree": a product design research project focused on bio based material.