According to Israeli-based materials development company, UBQ Materials Ltd., “Two billion tons of household waste are generated each year, and this number is expected to double by 2050.” Post-consumer waste is a massive environmental issue. The company is presenting a solution for that problem with the development of a system that converts household waste into a widely-usable manufacturing product.
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The bio-based material
The world’s first bio-based thermoplastic, UQB, is rolling off the production line and in queue for use by companies in a wide variety of industries. UBQ is made from household waste that would otherwise be trucked to the landfill. Instead, all combined waste such as food, plastic, packaging, paper, and even diapers are commingled and destined for the UBQ plant. Once they reach the plant, they are broken down into their natural components such as sugars, fibers and cellulose. They’re then reconstituted as bio-based pellets that look and function like petroleum-based plastics.
However, unlike plastic, UBQ materials offer a host of benefits. For starters, since the process diverts garbage from landfills, it means no soil leaching or emissions from incineration. There’s no off-gassing either.
This endlessly renewable material, made from plant, animal, marine, or forestry feedstocks, is 100% renewable and replaces the need for non-renewable petroleum-based products. As a full-cycle product, UBQ is cost-effective for businesses, consistently available and provides jobs.
Certifications for UBQ Materials
UBQ has earned a long list of certifications, starting with the label of a USDA Certified Biobased product. This means most of the material is bio-based and ensures a high rate of organic matter in relation to the number of mixed plastics and other waste. For the consumer, it offers a way of shopping that verifies materials made from renewable resources as third-party verified through the USDA BioPreferred Program.
UBQ Materials is also a Certified B Corp since 2018. The company was named Best for the World for the environment the following year, a title only earned by the top 10% of B Corps in each category.
UBQ also consistently reviews the updated Proposition 65’s (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986) list of chemicals as outlined by the state of California. To date, the list of likely dangerous chemicals has grown to around 900. According to their website, “UBQ Materials declares that the UBQ material does not trigger labeling requirements.”
UBQ Materials also certifies that the product does not contain any of the 219 Substances of Very High Concern. For partners, customers, or investors who want to better understand the product’s life cycle and any potential impacts, UBQ readily provides the Life Cycle Assessment. This third-party report by consulting firm Quantis reviews the process from raw material extraction to materials processing, manufacturing, distribution and use. With all these factors considered, the final grade is a “climate-positive environmental footprint of the UBQ material”.
Commitment to the environment
UBQ is committed to reaching carbon neutrality before 2030 and provides frequent and realistic interim goals as it works towards that mission. The company sees it as its obligation, not only for the environment and as a role model for other companies, but as a responsibility of monitoring the impact on “shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers and the communities in which we operate”.
Diverting household waste from landfills prevents the emission of methane, reducing greenhouse emissions. The company claims, “Every ton of UBQ produced prevents 11.7 tons of CO2eq from polluting our planet” and says, “Life Cycle Assessment auditors Quantis designated UBQ as ‘The Most Climate Positive Thermoplastic Material on the Market.’”
In the end, converting waste to material means reducing garbage, providing an alternative to the damaging aspects of landfills, and reducing pollution. Plus, it provides a renewable material that can be used across a variety of industries around the world. Additionally, it results in fewer virgin materials being produced.
UBQ in action
One example of a company adopting the material is the massive PepsiCo, the parent company of around 23 popular food and beverage brands. The company, as part of its sustainability rebranding, has publicly pushed its PepsiCo Positive (pep+) strategy, which outlines steps it can make to inspire positive change for employees and the environment, including a commitment to become net zero by 2040.
The company has a long way to go. As we reported in 2020 here, PepsiCo was among the top three plastic polluters in the world. From a marketing standpoint, it has little choice but to at least look like it’s making an effort to reduce plastic use and waste. However, steps have been gradual and mostly unnotable. The recent partnership with UBQ promises to incorporate 830 ecological pallets into two of the company’s logistics centers.
It’s a move UBQ and PepsiCo report, “In this initial project alone, the material implementation saves the equivalent of more than 6,500 kg of GHG emissions – the equivalent of the annual carbon sequestration of 534 trees. More than 739 kg of mixed waste will be redirected from landfills and looped back into the material as a valuable resource. The pallets are developed by PepsiCo’s partner Ecoboxes Embalagens Plásticas, which specializes in solutions focused on sustainability and circular economy.”
More recently, PepsiCo further expanded the use of the UBQ Material for eco-friendly Lay’s display stands across Europe. The company has also committed to expanding the pallet program, placing an order for 30,000 more.
Images via PepsiCo, UBQ Materials