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 Earth Food Love is UK's First Zero Waste shop that started in 2017 and specializes in organic food and non-food items.
They have no packaging for any of their products, and customers can bring along anything they please by way of containers, plastic, cloth or glass jars. The containers are weighed, filled with ware, weighed again, labeled and then the payment is made. This shop uses Ecotricity and support the Totnes Pound, and thereby contribute to strengthening the local economy. For people who forget to bring their containers there are paper bags that are fully compostable.
This shop is dealing with the waste problem by eliminating it completely in their business, which they refer to recycling as a solution for the waste that ends up in landfills. Instead, they promote the 5Rs- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.
Food items range from grains, nuts, cereal, dried fruits, drinks, etc. The non-food items are cleaning products, cloth sandwich wraps, bamboo cutlery, soy wax wraps, lunch tiffins, metal straws, cotton bulk bags, canvas bags, moon cups, washable feminine care, wooden toothbrushes, stainless steel razors, toothpaste, bamboo floss, canvas bags, mason jars, tea caddies and mesh tea strainers.
The family owned shop is managed by the couple Nicola and Richard Eckersley, and can be found in Devon, UK. The Guardian, The Independent, CNN, Sky News, BBC Spotlight and Toronto News have all covered this shop. It has been well-received, and they have advised and helped people who have set up similar shops in South Africa and New Zealand, while others want to start in Bristol, Wales and Birmingham.