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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Tiffin leads a community of users of reusable stainless steel lunchboxes for takeaway meals and sells its lunchboxes on its tiffin.be website, in restaurants, communities, with caterers in Belgium and abroad.
Brussels' restaurants generate 32,000 tonnes of waste each year, from which one-third is generated from the packaging. This amount of waste is only set to rise, as the takeout meal system is growing.
Tiffin's mission is to decrease the packaging waste generate by the takeout business and change consumer behavior. The lunchbox used by Tiffin is similar than the one used in India (Tiffin in India means "a light meal"). The project was initially born in Canada where, in 2008 Chef Hunter Moyes wanted to decrease the amount of single use packaging used by his customers.
This zero-waste project connects eco-minded residents with restaurants that are willing to accommodate reusable containers.
The Tiffin initiative was launched in Brussel in February 2019 and has already over 60 professional restaurants as partners.
Customers can purchase a stainless steel container online that comes in three styles and use this whenever they buy takeout food. As a member of the Tiffin project, they will get a 5 percent discount at the participating restaurant, which is a nice incentive.
Among the various collaborations are Groupe One, Bruxelles Environnement, MAD, UCM, Saint-Luc design Liège and many professionals in the catering sector.
The project received the "Off-piste" prize of the King Baudouin Foundation 2014, "Taste of change" prize of the Wallonia Brussels Federation, Reciprocity Design week 2015. It participated in the European Week of Waste Reduction and the first Brussels fair of "zero waste" in 2018.