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 Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. By utilizing the ocean currents to their advantage, their passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time.
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, impacting more than 600 marine species. According to the United Nations, plastic pollution is conservatively estimated to have a yearly financial damage of 13 billion USD. The costs stem from the plastic’s impact on marine life, tourism, fisheries and businesses. Plastic pollution does not only impact sea life, it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain – a food chain including us humans. A significant percentage of this ocean plastic drifts into large systems of circulating ocean currents, also known as gyres. Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic will break down into microplastics and become increasingly easier to mistake for food by sea life.
That is why The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system, moving with the currents - just like the plastic - to catch it. The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. Going after it with vessels and nets would be costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive and lead to vast amounts of carbon emission and by-catch. The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath. As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U-shaped system. The concentrated plastic will be brought back to shore for recycling and sold to B2C companies. The revenue gained will help fund the cleanup expansion to the other four ocean gyres.
In preparation for full-scale deployment, The Ocean Cleanup organized several expeditions to map the plastic pollution problem in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to an unprecedented degree of detail. The team simultaneously advanced its design through a series of scale model tests, including prototypes deployed in the North Sea 2016, 2017 and 2018. The first cleanup system was deployed from San Francisco Bay on September 8, being towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and has started the cleanup process.
Inventor since birth. Founded The Ocean Cleanup at age 18. Youngest ever recipient of the UN’s highest environmental accolade; Champion of the Earth in 2015. Awarded the maritime industry’s Young Entrepreneur Award in 2015 by HM King Harald of Norway. Chosen as European of the Year by Readers Digest in 2017. Member of the Thiel Fellowship.