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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Wasted is an autonomous project under CITIES Foundation, an Amsterdam-based non-profit that seeks to find solutions tailored to local needs using community engagement and active research.
While waste segregation is high in most of Holland, Amsterdam with its high percentage of low income families was lagging behind country statistics in this area.
WASTED provides a simple way to turn consumers' waste (glass, paper, textiles, plastic waste) into discounts and rewards at local retailers, shops, restaurants and cafés. It was also designed as an educational tool about waste segregation and to provide motivation to put the lessons into practice.
The organization is currently working with 800 people. Participants can subscribe to the WASTED website by creating an account his household. After subscribing, each participant receive a Start-up Kit equipped with 12 WASTED trash bags, a poster about how the process works and all the information needed for separating the plastic, glass, paper and textile. Before disposing of the content of a bag to the nearest traditional recycling container, the participant:
Scan the QR code on the recycling container, using the QR scanning application on its smartphone,
Upload a picture of the full WASTED bag, press upload and throw the bag into the container.
Once it has been verified, the participant receive coins on his account. As a reward the participants get a digital WASTED coin that can be encashed for discounts and benefits at various offline or online stores.
Many local businesses are supporting the project by becoming Rewarders and providing discounts. Discounts can be applied to coffee, beers, events, soups, bike repairs, massage, yoga lessons, bitterballen, dinners, tools, furniture and more. Whole neighborhoods in Amsterdam Noord are participating in the program.
CITIES was founded in 2008 to tackle global problems, such as environmental crisis and promote a circular economy. They cooperate with the Municipality of Amsterdam to promote recycling, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment on a pilot program to educate secondary school kids and adults on plastic. WASTED’s efforts have been reported in the Guardian.