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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The Dogwood Dyer makes natural dyes from organic sources and waste, and dyes textiles using less water and energy than conventional methods. The firm collaborates with designer labels, sells clothing and dyeing materials, and organises workshops.
Industrial dyeing processes use toxic petroleum dyes, require large quantities of water and generate chemical effluents that often end up in streams and rivers. Natural dyeing too is a water-intensive process.
The Dogwood Dyer organically grows dye plants in an orange grove in southern California, and forages locally abundant plants. Colors are created from roots, flowers, leaves and berries, and extracted using water. Since each plant has an distinct color depending on climate factors such as water quality, soil, rain and sunlight, the Dogwood Dyer works with designer clients through the process to ensure necessary hue and saturation. Textiles are separately treated with a natural metal salt that ensures the color does not fade in sunlight and wash cycles.
Dyeing is done using bundle dyeing or shibori techniques that use less water, or using captured rainwater. Dyes are allowed to set over a long time instead as an alternative to applying heat, which is faster but takes up more energy. The Dogwood Dyer recycles 80% of the dye and rinse water back into the garden. The firm has worked with restaurants to source color ingredients from kitchen scraps, experimented with alternatives to metal salt, and also works with farmers in Tennessee, USA, to switch to indigo cultivation from tobacco.
The Dogwood Dyer works with designer clients, sells finished textiles, indigo seeds and dyeing kits online, and teaches the process in paid workshops in southern California, New York and the New England area.