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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Anthesis is a global sustainability services and solutions provider, and is now developing a new Smart Waste Tracking System named Vastum.
In the UK, more than 200 million tonnes of waste is generated each year with the number of individual waste transactions estimated to be above 20 million. The problem lies within the subsequent transport and disposal of this waste, which can be complicated and fragmented. Last year, the government published an independent review into serious and organised waste crime, which found that a lack of digital record-keeping in the waste industry is frequently exploited by organised criminals who transport waste to illegal sites or mislabel it to avoid landfill tax or illegally export it. Importantly, recording waste movements at source by the waste producer, will also address the current data gaps that exist.
Anthesis is developing a new tracking system to help unify the many different systems that businesses currently use to report waste data into one.
Named ‘Vastum’, this waste tracking system is based on a blockchain approach, already proven to be effective in the finance sector, which securely records transactions into a distributed ledger on a time-stamp basis.
Applying this technology to the waste sector will enable reliable and secure recording of all waste movements in the UK, allowing waste to be tracked from source through its treatment and to final disposal. Users will be able to import and export data through a user interface with differing levels of functionality and access. It will also make sure that waste producers and managers comply with waste regulations and help regulators identify and act against illegal waste crime.
If the project is successfully chosen to proceed to a potential second phase, the company will continue the development of the Vastum system with the aim of expanding it to replace the myriad of existing reporting and compliance data systems used by waste producers, collectors and the regulators.
The system will:
Securely record all waste movements in the UK; which will allow an effective tracking of the waste to its final destination.
Provide a powerful tool in helping to protect the environment.
Make sure that waste producers and managers comply with waste regulations and help regulators identify and take action against illegal waste crime.
Help to bring together the many forms of waste data that are currently being collected into one new system.
Anthesis will undertake a feasibility assessment for the waste tracking concept based on a blockchain approach, applying proven technology mainly used in the finance sector. Blockchain securely records transactions into a ‘distributed ledger’ on a time stamp basis. The tracker can be expanded to replace the myriad of existing reporting and compliance data systems used by waste producers, collectors and the regulators. Recording waste movements at source by the waste producer, will also address the current data gaps that exist.
Anthesis has been awarded up to £80,000 by the UK Government to develop this solution.
Smart tracking will help to maximise the value of waste as a resource and minimise damage to the environment, stimulating a more circular economy.