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 Litterboom Project is an initiative by Parley, that works on a solution to stop the flow of marine plastic waste.
Approximately 90 percent of the plastic that causes marine pollution comes from river systems. Therefore the project aims to work on the preventive solutions by targeting the river systems instead of dealing with only oceans.
The project stops the flow of plastic in the river systems and other local water sources using large, sealed, and robust pipes known as Litterbooms. The pipes are anchored across the river and it acts as a catchment for all surface-level plastics, which mostly consist of HDPE and PET. Each site consists of two to three Litterbooms. Keeping the storm and heavy rain in mind, the pipes are designed in a manner that under strain it only breaks from one side, preventing the loss of entire Litterboom when rivers rise.
The preventive measure is set up strategically in a way that the team can collect most of the waste, sort, and send the plastic off for recycling. The project has successfully prevented 250 000 kgs of plastic from reaching the ocean in the past 2 years. This is done by engaging people from the local community.
It has partnered with Parley, Tufbag, Wildlands, Astore Keymak, Fine Metals, and Cape Bulk Bags.
The project is currently operating in five River systems around Durban, as well as 2 major river systems in Cape Town and aims to develop sustainable models that can be used throughout South Africa as well as Globally in the future.
It benefits the communities, industries, government, and environment.