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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.”


“Great Scott!” – Industry Association Chair Admits Oxobiodegradables “not for landfilling”

Writing in the November/December issue of bioplastics MAGAZINE, a global trade publication, Dr. Gerald Scott, long time proponent of oxo-biodegradable technologies and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, stated that products made with oxo-bioedgradable additive technologies are not suitable to be landfilled or composted.

Let us be clear…that oxo-biodegradable plastic is not normally marketed for composting, and it is not designed for anaerobic digestion nor for degradation deep in landfill…

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The Right Way to Go Green

Santa Barbara City College featured a report about a terrific program from that city’s Center for Sustainability. To reduce waste, the Center has partnered with the city of Santa Barbara’s environmental services to implement a post-consumer compost program.

Potato starch utensils, sugar cane to-go containers, and yellow compost bins are used throughout the Zero Waste and Awareness Program being implemented by the Center for Sustainability.

“Waste is a human concept,” said NikiAnne Feinberg, full-time coordinator of the Center for Sustainability. “It doesn’t exist in nature. I think of it as something that we haven’t found a second use for yet.”

She said the program tries to minimize the waste that goes to the landfill. It provides greater opportunities for participation and education on campus.

Nearly all the disposable stuff provided by the cafeteria can be composted, with the exception of plastic condiment cups and coffee cup lids. Marc Sullivan, director of food services, said that they are looking at compostable alternatives.

New York Times: From Grey to Green?

According to a story appearing on the New York Times website, the famed ‘grey lady’ will attempt to go ‘green’ with new ‘biodegradable’ bags for its home-delivered newspapers by early 2009  (see: Cheap Green: Reusing Plastic Bags – New York Times).

According to the report, the bag begins to degrade in the open environment within a few months and within two to three years when in a landfill.

The story also quotes: “With this new technology, an additive is mixed with the plastic that causes the finished product to degrade over time, as it is exposed to oxygen in the open environment or in a landfill. In addition to being “oxo-biodegradable” the bag can be recycled along with any other plastic bags. The Times will be the first national newspaper to commit to using this environmentally friendly bag. “

Greenwashing?  Absolutely!

There is no data to support the claim that “oxo-bidegradable” plastics completely biodegrade in the anaerobic conditions found in modern landfills.

Further, according to a recent position paper by Canada’s Environment and Plastics Industry Council, very little biodegrades in a landfill, which is good because modern landfills are designed to minimize groundwater pollution and methane production because of uncontrolled biodegradation.  Plastic diverted to a landfill only adds to solid waste problems.

In the 1990’s, famed ‘garbologist’ (garbage + archeology)  Dr. William Rathje excavated perfectly readable, 30-year old newspapers from landfills, demonstrating that little biodegradation is occurring.  My guess is that a New York Times from 2009 (wrapped in the new bag) will likely be perfectly readable if exhumed from a landfill in 2039!

Rather than looking for a “biodegradable” solution, perhaps the money The Times is spending would be better spent promoting newspaper AND plastic bag recycling as a way to keep waste out of the landfill.