Resin Suppliers Denounce Oxo-Degradables

In a letter to the country’s national association of supermarkets and department stores, Mexico’s three biggest polyethylene suppliers have denounced oxo-biodegradable technology.

An article posted by Plastics News quotes the letter:

“We consider that the use of degrading additives is not a sustainable way of tackling this issue [of waste management], as it has not been proven indisputably that materials containing such [biodegrading] additives really do biodegrade in landfills or can be recycled. In other words, degrading additives do not add value to plastic waste, including polyethylene waste.”

The letter was signed by Cleantho de Paiva Leite Filho, at the time Braskem Idesa’s commercial and institutional relations director, Paula Sans Quiros, Dow’s commercial director in Mexico for the company’s performance and specialty plastics, and Carlos Pani Espinosa, Pemex Química’s deputy commercial director.

The letter also cites an April vote by the European parliament, which urged member countries to “drastically reduce materials that contain oxo-biodegradables to the point where they are eliminated altogether.”

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New White Paper Detangles Degradables

Nothing has become a lightning rod for harsh environmental criticism more than “oxo-degradable” plastics. To help understand why something so seemingly “good” has become so closely scrutinized, you might want to download and read through the SPI Bioplastic Council Bioplastics Position Paper on OXO-Biodegradable Plastic from the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) Bioplastics Council. (republished by permission of the SPI).

Here are some sample conclusions from the white paper that are very useful in understanding the environmental issues surrounding oxo-degradables:

About the term “oxo” degradable…

…terms such as ‘biodegradable in landfills,’ ‘oxo-biodegradable,’ etc. without reference to existing standard certifications (are) misleading, and as such not reproducible and verifiable. Under these conditions the term “oxo-biodegradable”, more specifically biodegradation in general, lacks meaning and is not supported by any recognized industry certifications or third-party peer reviewed scientific data.

About the benefits of “fragmentation”…

Fragmentation of “oxo-biodegradable” plastics is not the result of a biodegradation process but rather the result of a chemical reaction. The resulting fragments will remain in the environment. Fragmentation is not a solution to the waste problem, but rather the conversion of visible contaminants (such as bags) into invisible contaminants (plastic fragments).

About benefits of “litter prevention”…

Long standing efforts for the prevention of littering could actually be damaged by giving users of plastic items (oxo degradables) the impression that those items might vanish harmlessly if discarded in the environment.

About the impact on composting…

Collection and recovery schemes for organic waste are likely to suffer from the use of oxo-fragmentable materials, as these materials are reported to not meet the requirements of organic recovery.

About the impact on plastics recycling…

As a consequence the recyclates may be destabilized (by oxo-degradables), which will hinder acceptance and lead to reduced value (of recycled plastics).

The white paper is an essential read for better understanding the issues surrounding “degradable” plastics, and separating greenwashing claims from real environmental solutions.

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Food Waste: The Final Frontier

According to the EPA, in 2010, about 35 million tons of food waste was generated in the US. Of that, almost 34 million tons (97%) was thrown away into landfills or incinerators.

When excess or leftovers are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane — an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Much of this “waste” is not waste at all, but actually safe, wholesome food that could potentially feed millions of Americans…or be safely composted and reclaimed as valuable soil enhancers. Continue reading

‘Zero Waste’ is California Dreamin’

A recent article in the September 12 edition of The Wall Street Journal describes how several major California cities are leading the way for aggressive landfill-diversion goals.

The article, “The Urban Quest for ‘Zero Waste’” by David Perry of Oakland, Ca., describes how Los Angeles, San Diego and especially San Francisco now prevent up to 77 percent of municipal wastes from hitting landfills.

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Tesco Drops Oxo-degradable Plastic Bags

One of the UK’s largest retailers, Tesco, recently announced it has ditched its ‘eco-friendly’ carrier bags after research revealed they may be more environmentally damaging than conventional plastic bags.

Perhaps this headline from London’s largest circulation daily newspaper, The Daily Mail, says it best:

Myth of ‘eco-friendly’ bags exposed as Tesco dumps ‘green’ carriers that may actually harm the environment

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