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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Synvina is a young company, founded as a joint venture between Avantium and BASF at the end of 2016 and is now only owned by Avantium. The company's mission is to establish a world-leading position in bio-based FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid) and PEF (polyethylenefuranoate).
To realize this ambition, Avantium plans to make PEF and its raw material FDCA, at a plant with an annual capacity of 5,000 metric tons (t). The company has engaged the engineering firm Worley to draw up engineering studies for the roughly $170 million facility, which it hopes to start up in 2023 at a still-to-be-determined site in northwestern Europe. The next move will be to license their technology for industrial-scale production.
Alongside its environmental benefits, the polymer PEF offers increased performance in comparison with PET and other packaging materials, such as fossil-based plastics, aluminum or glass. These benefits mean that PEF is viable for a range of additional applications that have so far been beyond the reach of PET.
Synvina produces FDCA at its pilot plant in Geleen, The Netherlands, using the YXY® process developed by Avantium and based on fructose as a renewable raw material. Currently, Synvina is polymerizing FDCA to PEF externally at their partners’ facilities. When it starts up in the planned Avantium's plant, it will produce polymers for high-value applications such as barrier films and specialty bottles.