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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Sea Cleaners is an association that wants to tackle marine plastic pollution. They aim to remove the plastic out of water, in high density areas (coasts, estuaries) before it breaks down into microplastic, and the chemicals leach out, harming the marine life and people. They also want to decrease the large amounts of plastic waste in the oceans.
The boat that will be used is called Manta, as it draws its inspiration from the mantis, and its large mouth. The Manta is meant for operations in open sea. It will be a floating factory that collects, sorts, compacts and stores plastic waste. Mantas will have three collecting treadmills between the hulls of the ship to scoop up big quantities of plastics. By compacting the waste, the Manta will be able to accommodate large quantities of waste and is estimated to hold 250 tons of waste. This will then be carried back to land and forwarded to relevant recycling centers. Besides cleaning the oceans, this project aims to conduct scientific observation, and involve itself in prevention of pollution, in education and achieving a circular economy.
The MANTA is based on the most advanced technologies in terms of clean energy, design, naval architecture, waste collection and treatment at sea. However, this is still work in progress, and they want more partners who will get involved and help in improving the design of the boat. The company is also looking for technical and financial partners to take the project forward. Feasibility studies have been carried out for eighteen months and a model ship is nearly ready.
Sea Cleaners was founded in 2016 by Yvan Bourgnon, a French Swiss explorer, and is based in France. Sea Cleaners’ work has already won it approval from The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation who are interested in environment protection.