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 Plastic Flamingo is a French startup founded in 2018 that collects and recycles plastic waste in Manila, the capital of Philippines.
Founders Francois Lesage and Charlotte Lesage got the idea to start the company during a one-year cycling tour from France to Vietnam, when they witnessed the extent of plastic waste. They also learnt that 80% of the plastic pollution in the oceans comes from Asia.
The startup started in Manila city. It collects plastic from condominiums, schools, universities, restaurants and hotels. Individual and organization can register to become a collection point. As of January 2020, 50 have been created around Manila and has allowed the collection of 19 tonnes of plastic waste. Plastic Flamingo also collects waste directly from large organizations.
The plastic waste is taken to the company’s warehouse, where it is segregated, cleaned and dried. In partnership with the University of the Philippines the startup has developed a proprietary formulation to convert plastic waste into different products, such as planks, construction material, outdoor furniture and temporary disaster shelters. Each shelter uses about two tonnes of recycled plastic. They recycle HDPE, PP, LDPE and flexible packaging like multi-layered plastic and laminates.
The Plastic Flamingo also provides a plastic compensation service for individuals and organizations. For a small price per kilogram, the company will collect and make sure of the recycling of the amount of plastic waste that the individual or organization is willing to offset and will provide certificates of plastic compensation accordingly. This plastic compensation can be done via monthly subscription plans or on demand.
The Plastic Flamingo offers full traceability of the recycled waste, cross communication partnerships, marketing kits, awareness lectures and educational sessions.
The company is planning to expand further within the Philippines but also abroad in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and India.